This One Time While in a Hostel…

life in a hostelSomeone recently told me I must have a lot of funny, weird, happy, and interesting hostel stories. After all I’ve been traveling for 54 months. Lots of crazy things have happened to me over that time period. Hostel life can be a crazy life. After thinking about the last four and half years, some of my favorite hostels stories include:

The time in New Zealand when an Israeli girl refused to shut off her bed light because she was afraid of the dark. She then proceeded to talk to her friend all night. One of the other roommates proceeded to unplug her light. After a short argument, which she lost, we were able to sleep in darkness and silence.

The time I was in a hostel in Prague and the whole hostel played the drinking card game of “Kings”. We never left the hostel that night because we had so much fun together. This was also my first night in Europe and made me realize I was going to love traveling.

Moreover, at the same hostel in Prague, everyone in my dorm could all hear two people trying to have sex. All of a sudden, the guy says, “I’m sorry this doesn’t happen often,” to which the girl replied, “It’s O.K. It’s no big deal.” Everyone in the dorm room heard that and burst out laughing. The guy left the next day.

In Amsterdam, my friends and I went on the roof of the hostel to take photos of the canals. We weren’t supposed to be there and everyone but me got kicked out. Why did I get special treatment? I had been there for three weeks already, the manager liked me, and I was leaving in two days.

In Valencia, a guy accused the hostel staff of stealing his wallet, got drunk, tried to fight the desk guy, and was summarily ejected from the hostel. I remember his girlfriend cried a lot. But it made for great pre-going out entrainment.

At a hostel in Boulder, Colorado, this guy kept talking in his sleep about the people trying to get him. He mumbled under his breath all day too. As the only person in the room with me, I was certain he was going to go nuts and stab me. It was the only time I was genuinely scared of a dorm mate.

In a hostel in Vietnam, I couldn’t figure out how the door opened and this German guy yelled at me for 10 minutes for waking him up. He proceeded to get back at me by turning the lights on at 6 a.m. and making a lot of noise the next two nights. I proceeded to get back at him by setting my alarm for 2 a.m. locking it in my locker, and going out drinking.

Speaking of Vietnam, when I got back from a bike trip early in Ho Chi Minh, the guesthouse manager wouldn’t give me my bags. I had left them with him while I went biking but I came back a few days earlier and there was no room available. I tried to get my bags and he said I had promised to stay there so I could come back tomorrow and get a room and my bags. Never mind I needed them that night. I had to steal my own bags and fight my way out.

life in a hostelAt a hostel in Barcelona, two drunken Americans burst into our dorm, turned on the lights, looked at this Canadian guy and yelled, “Is that a dude in your bed!” It wasn’t. It was a girl. She left crying and the Americans and Canadian almost got in a fight. It was a shocking scene.

While at a hostel in Dublin, one of the guys in the room “relieved the tension” before he went to bed. He was not subtle about it at all.

In New Zealand, my friends and I got a Dutch girl drunk for the first time in her life. She threw up all over the common room and was forced to clean it up! We felt sorry for her and took her out to dinner.

While in a guesthouse in Ko Lipe, Thailand, I got bit by a centipede while sleeping. Centipede bites hurt… a lot. My foot was on fire for the rest of the night and I couldn’t sleep at all. It is still my most painful travel memory.

While on the island of Ko Phangan in Thailand, my friend came in at 4 am to kick me out because he had brought a girl back with him. Being a nice guy, I left to sleep outside and ended up getting eaten by mosquitoes. The next morning he told me, “Nothing happened. She left a few minutes later.” “Why didn’t you let me back in?” I asked. He shrugged and kept eating breakfast. I locked him out of the room the next night to get eaten by mosquitoes.

In Spain, I walked in on two other dorm mates “getting to know each other.” It was awkward. They looked at me but just kept going. I told them to come get me when they were finished so I could go to sleep.

While in Cambodia, I checked into one of the many backpacker hostels in Phnom Phen and was immediately asked if I wanted weed. I said no. Coke? No. Ecstasy? No, thank you. I just want to go shower. The guy walks out saying, “You are a loser.” [It’s common in Phnom Phen for backpackers to buy drugs. Drugs are everywhere.]

In Melbourne, I walked into a hostel dorm room and looked up to see a friend from Boston. I had no idea she would be there, proving once again that it is indeed a small world after all. Like old times, we started insulting each other (in the way friends do) and this English girl looks at us and says, “Wow! You two must really hate each other.” No, we’re friends just having a laugh! It was a good few days in Melbourne.

In a hostel in Surfer’s Paradise in Australia, this guy ran through the hostel naked on a dare. I’m still traumatized by the thought of it.

In a hostel in Portobelo, Panama, I awoke to an old guy snoring in the bed across from me. I love when seniors come to hostels because it’s great seeing them not give into the “hostels are only for young people” stereotype. Yet I don’t like waking up to one across from me letting it all hang out. Not only was he snoring but his legs were spread wide open and he was completely naked. It was a really unpleasant site. Worse than the naked guy running.

Looking back on the last few years, I have so many hostel memories that it if I wrote all them good ones down, I could fill a short book. And that’s what I love about hostels. You won’t always walk away with some crazy story but you will always walk away with a memory and having met interesting people. It’s why I’ll always stay in hostels when I travel. They are far more interesting places than hotels.

(Editor’s Note: These stories have accumulated over many years. In some of them, I am a young 20 something so my response might not have been the response I’d give today as a mature adult.)

  1. HAHA! I love the Prague hostel story.
    I’ve got a few too. I share it all the time with my friends.
    First time travelling solo and first time hostelling I went to Panama. Now I’ve heard of stories such as yours with couples ‘getting to know each other’, but I didn’t think it’d ever happen to me…on my first night.
    Around midnight I was already passed out in my bed (upper bunk) and got woken up by the bed shaking. I looked down and saw this girl putting her luggage underneath the bed. When I checked in i was told that spot was empty, well then it is now occupied. I proceeded to get my nightsleep as the next day I had to wake up early to go to Isla Taboga. A few hours later, the bed was shaking again and thought ‘What on earth does this girl want from her bag?!’ I looked down and wondered ‘Why is she sleeping with her legs up? and saw a ‘bum’ in motion. I squeeked and tried to close my eyes and ignore them. While the rest of the room can easily ignore the couple by turning their backs away from us I had no escape. I could feel every. single. motion.

  2. During my very first hostel stay–Paris at the age of 19–I was in a shared room with four dudes and I had the top bunk. I’m a very restless sleeper and woke up in the middle of the night to a thud. That thud was me–I had rolled right off the bunk in my fitful sleep and was sitting in the middle of the room, stunned. All the guys jumped up and were alarmed, but I was just in a daze–I didn’t feel the pain from my fall until I woke up the next day!

  3. Love

    I love the ‘it’s NO BIG deal’ story.
    The only hostel sex story I have, well one of the only ones, happened in Ulaan Bator. I was at a German restaurant, Ikh Mongol, and ran into the owner of the hostel. He was seated at a table with a young woman. I knew his wife was on vacation in China so I proceeded to head the other direction and mind my own business when he invited me to sit down. He said other friends were coming and it was fine to join. So, I did. A little while later, the ‘friend’ arrived, another young woman meant to accompany me. We sat for a while and drank more dark Mongolian beer until the German expat that was sharing the room with me showed up. He was a fine fellow, I think 57 at the time. The owner welcomed him too and got on his phone to ring up another friend. After picking up a bottle of vodka, we all went back to the hostel for a night cap. At some point, my German friend’s bed broke and they had to relocate to another room.

  4. I was quite surprised by the prevalence of drugs in Phnom Penh, too. One place we stayed, guys were pushing weed & shrooms at me, even with a nine-year-old boy in tow. It’s not so much the availability of them, which I don’t have a problem with, as the assumption that, as you’re a Westerner in PP, you’re going to be there for the gear — and the pushiness.

  5. Kenan Lucas

    I have had my fair share of hostel experiences so now I am always struggle to find the desire to stay at one again. It’s fun for the first time you go travelling, especially if you are on a budget, but sleeping in a room with strangers gets old quickly.

    Now I prefer to CouchSurf.

  6. LOVE IT, Matt!

    I was at a hostel in KL and a cleaning lady came up to me, giving me an earring of mine that I didn’t know was missing.

    “How did you know it was mine?” I asked.

    “It was in the boys’ dorm,” she replied with a wink.


    • Alex Lilly

      Oh my gosh Kate, hilarious. Love your blog. And great piece, Matt! I think anyone who has ever stayed in a hostel can relate. It’s always an experience.

  7. Darrin

    I am sure travelers the world over have great hostel stories. They are often the best travel tales. The people we meet in hostels may be our dearest friends, if only for a night or a few days, but their memories live (or haunt) with us forever. Thanks for sharing this. I especially love all the “payback” stories. Tonight, I will raise a pint to all my dear hostel friends.

    • NomadicMatt

      No need to call me names. Many of those “misery” scenes were quite funny (“This has never happened before.”) and the fight scene played out like a soap opera. I guess you had to be there. But I wouldn’t revel in someone’s genuine misery or pain. As for getting smashed, while I like to go out, I actually don’t get drunk. I don’t like how it makes me feel. Lastly, don’t mess with my sleep! Hahaha

  8. Great stories Matt.
    What I like most about the nights spent in hostels is that they remind me, somehow, of the nights spent in school camps, many years ago. Hahaha!

  9. God I love hostels and these kinds of stories are exactly why.

    I think I’ll be one of those older dudes in their 40s staying at hostels. Or hopefully not.

  10. Haha they’re brilliant! The Prague impotency story, the Barcelona one and the Valencia one are my favourites! Mine are all pretty tame – the worst to date is a snoring Japanese guy in a hostel in Turkey who wore an all-in-one and wouldn’t talk to the rest of us.

  11. Jeannette

    I use hostels a lot and now prefer them actually but I just had my first bizarre experience in one. I arrived very late in New York city, after checking in I head to the bathrooms to take care of toiletries, pj’s and and all that good jazz.

    I’ve been told my bed is the lower bunk right next to the door, since it’s late I don’t turn on the light of course. Now I’m ready to just crawl in which I proceeded to do…right onto another body !!!!!! (who didn’t wake up)

    I wrote a little story on it called “Papa Bear somebody’s been sleeping in my New York”
    so funny now when I think of it :)

  12. LOL! Great list. I have to ask… how was the next morning with the German roommate after your alarm in the locker went off at 2am?!

    Good payback though.

  13. This site totally made my day.. I’m still crying from laughing at some of those stories. My favorite one was getting back at the guy who locked you out of the room and you got eaten by mosquitoes. (not that it was funny then)

    Keep up the great work!

  14. Lindsay

    Haha, love these stories! 😀
    Matt I found your site today and have been reading (or should I say devouring) it for like… 2 hours! Thanks for the travel inspiration and tips! I’m totally pumped… Wish I could start traveling NOW! (But i have to wait at least 6 months til my boring cubicle job ends OHH)

  15. Dan

    Always pay the hosting renewals for your blog for this post alone. In 10 years time you will love re-reading it!! I had plenty of hostel scrapes in my day but can barely remember the details of any – they didn’t have blogs back then though.

  16. steven

    So jealous of your life, Matt. I wish I could go travelling, but I’m only 15. Already saving up money for it though. Hope i get just as many crazy experiences like you!

  17. kelly

    ive been away from the UK for 5 years now and a couple of weeks ago i woke up in the back of an Australia post van down near the beach….. no idea how i got in there….. they gave me a blanket though, lol

  18. This post made me laugh! Love that you locked an alarm in your locker to get back at that one guy. Laura and I will have our first hostel experience in New Zealand in a few weeks. We are excited, despite some of the crazy stuff we’ve heard and read about!

  19. OMG this is probably my favorite post of yours so far, Matt. LOVE the story about locking your alarm clock in the locker and going out. I literally laughed out loud! I think everyone has a story (or more) like these, and I certainly have some small stories – but fortunately I have been lucky with my hostelling experience so far.

    My favorite was in Prague, on the first night, when my roommates and I all entered our room within 10 minutes of each other, introduced ourselves, and within 5 minutes we were heading down the street together to get a few pints. We ended up swapping travel stories over $1 pints of beer in an underground former bomb shelter until 2am. And then we went on the free walking tour to get acquainted with the city the next day, before spending the afternoon pub-crawling. Those girls were some of my favorite roommates!

  20. Samy

    That one time in a hostel in Amsterdam, when a roommate was snoring like a chainsaw. Seriously. A chainsaw.
    Me and my friend had to leave the room to go heavily smoke some…stuff in order to be smashed enough to crash on our beds.
    The next morning, we asked for another dorm.

  21. Jack

    One time I was in a hostel in Cairns and I met a gorgeous Norwegian who took me back to her room after a night out. What she didn’t tell me was that she was on the top bunk. We tried to bump uglies but unfortunately I accidentally kicked a pastic bag of change she kept hidden in her sheet off on to the floor and woke everyone up. I felt bad the next day… for about a minute.

  22. Matt, this is epic! Couldn’t stop reading, and was kind of sad when I finished! Short, fun stories without the typical bla-bla around, I like that!

    Hostel can be every kind of experience for sure 😉

  23. Damian "Flexo"

    I enjoy reading these stories, but regretfully it gets very predictable when it’s all the same old stories about shagging, vomiting and peeing. Anyway, one of the striking and stupidest thing I ever saw and can’t wipe from my mind was this. In a central hostel in downtown Malaga there was this British dope still in his bed until the afternoon when I walk in and he asks in a very dumb Patrick the Starfish voice UUUHH MATE WOT TIME IZZ IT? I told him it was 2pm sharp and he didn’t even reply anymore. Exactly that moment two German girls are entering the room. What happens next he jumps out of the upper bunk landing perfectly on his feet like an acrobat while he somehow looks very fresh all of a sudden while his voiced turned into a coaxing Captain Zap Branningan voice, HE —- LLOOOOO WHAT HAVE-E WE GOT-T HERE-RE? What an complete doofus, I soo wished I just slapped his stupid noggin he deserved a beating.

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