Hostel accommodation wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the backpackers. All those young men and women who’ve left their homes for the first time and have never cleaned for themselves, cooked for themselves, or truly grasped the intrinsic value of a shower. And they’re unleashed upon the world’s hostels and jazzed up on cheap wine. They fill all those 30-bunk mega dorms with the smell of feet, and the shared fridges with meticulously-labeled bags of rotting food. And they generally vomit, shag, and high-five their way around the world’s tourist traps, staying in hostels along the way.
For this reason hostel managers do a lot of cleaning. Anytime someone spews, shits, or bleeds, it’s hostel staff who clean up the mess. Presumably, though, it sometimes gets worse than cleaning. Surely, from time to time, hostel managers encounter backpackers who are particularly, uniquely unpleasant in new and surprising ways.
We wanted to be surprised, so we asked some hostel employees around the world to describe the worst backpackers they’ve ever had to deal with.
The Yellow Hostel, Rome
In 2016, we had a visit from a 40-year-old New Zealander who claimed to be a priest from the Vatican. After checking in with our receptionist, he explained that his purpose for the trip was to find himself. He confided in me that he was questioning his sexuality and needed to take some time off to reflect on his priesthood. At this time, we were running a party bus type service where guests could lose their inhibitions and experience a fun night out. To our surprise, the priest seemed really enthusiastic about the event and signed up. After too much alcohol and too little water, the priest returned to the hostel with people he met on his wild night on the town. Then, after all the guys were fast asleep, the priest snuck out in the middle of the night. The next morning, his new “friends” realised they’d been robbed of all their possessions. After some Googling, we discovered that the priest was actually a seasoned con-artist who had been imitating a priest across Australia and New Zealand for some time. We just hope he went to confession after his visit to The Yellow.
Sant Jordi Hostel, Barcelona
Back in 2016, a guy came to the hostel reception wearing a suit, asking to speak to one of the girls staying with us. He was looking for this Canadian girl who had been travelling with her best friend. They had checked in a few nights before, and I recalled that she had been sleeping with another guest for a few nights—an Australian man. I went to her room to try and reach her, telling her there was a guy downstairs looking for her. The girl’s friend started yelling at me to leave, and the Australian man (who was still in her bed) seemed confused and asked her what was going on. The girl said it was her boyfriend. We then headed down to reception together while she was in her pyjamas. When we finally got to the reception they shared a hug and the guy quickly took out a diamond ring, got down on his knee, and proposed to her in front of me. I could not believe that he had just proposed after all that I'd seen. I felt so awkward because he didn't know what his girlfriend had been up to the past few days.
Downtown Hanoi Backpackers
I was on an organised hostel tour, and had stopped off at a restaurant in a village just outside of Hanoi. A middle aged Australian man in our group was quite hammered, and on our way in the van back to the hostel, he decided to rescue a soon-to-be-eaten pot-bellied pig the restaurant had locked in a cage. Somehow he bribed the man behind the register, and before we knew it the pig was out of the restaurant, wrapped in a bag, and was with us on our voyage back to Hanoi. At this point we had expected him to just release the pig to one of the surrounding farms.
The next morning I awoke to the sight of the pig in the billiards room on the seventh story of the hostel, sleeping next to a Thai tattoo artist, who was dressed like a pirate. It was a bizarre sighting.
Unfortunately the hostel closed not long after this incident.
Retox Hostel, Budapest
We once had a guy extend his stay because someone henna tattooed his forehead while he was passed out. I was surprised to see him when I arrived at the hostel one afternoon, as I knew he'd had a flight to Ios that morning to work in a bar in Greece for the summer. He was topless and leaning on the bar for support. He turned around, and it looked like he had dirt smeared all over his face, but as I got closer I could see it was henna ink. Certainly a bleak outcome, but I've seen people catch flights under far more duress, so I knew there must be more. He then enlightened me to the true reason he was still here. He lifted up his cap and in henna ink, written in large letters across his forehead, were the words "I HAVE DRUGS IN MY ASS".
“So,” he said, “it looks like I'm missing my flight. Fuck Ios, I’m staying here."
El Rio Hostel, Columbia
We once had a Scottish guest who became "over refreshed" one evening and became convinced his friends were trying to kidnap him. He ended up running away, and was last seen diving into the river. I was woken up by some concerned staff members who had borne witness to this, so we sent out a river search party in small fishing boats.
At around 9 AM the police turned up with him in tow. He’d made it about 10 miles down the road to the Tayrona National park entrance and had asked the police (in a broad Glaswegian accent) to take him back to Scotland. They managed to find out where he was staying and brought him back to pay his bill, then said the closest they could get him to Scotland was Santa Marta, so they were going to take him there! We never found out if he made it home or not.
We once had some guests that were being so loud we tried to get them to leave, but they flat-out refused. So the manager walked into their room but was overcome by this horrendous stench. It was foul, she told me.
She then investigated further and discovered this couple had, over the space of several weeks, collected about 1,000 sea cucumbers from the lagoon and dried them on the roof of the hostel. Apparently they’d been sneaking out of their room at 1 AM every day and returning at 3 to start sorting through their stash. It explained why I’d been kept awake for much of the night.
They were Chinese tourists, it turned out, and they were planning on exporting the sea cucumbers back home, where they’re considered a luxury food. Apparently the guests were later deported.
As originally told on Never Ending Footsteps
Bodega Hostel, Ko Phangan
We had a guy just the other day drink too many buckets. He crapped himself while crawling up the stairs, then slid over in it, then picked it up and carried it back to his room. When he got to the bathroom he must have realised what he was carrying, and he threw it all over the place and vomited. Then he packed up in haste (obviously with it all over him) and checked out. My staff were so shocked they didn’t object.
Weirdly, the same guest then came back that afternoon and asked “how much do I owe you, and I hope you got it on camera. Wow I’m an idiot haha.” Then he checked back in!
Bayswater Hostel, London
I once spent a year running a busy hostel in Central London. We had been on the police "hot list" for the previous three years. The hostel had eight staff members, all under 23, and all Australian. I personally delivered a baby while on the phone to some ambos on the street, in front of the hostel, in the middle of an alcohol-fuelled party. Another time I had an old Italian man who refused to put on clothes for a solid four hours in a 24 mixed-person room. It was the wildest 12 months of my life.
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