Do I Really Need Flip Flops for Hostels – Ask Alex – Travel Question Wednesdays

Ask Alex - Travel Question Wednesdays

This post is part of the Ask Alex, Travel Question Wednesdays weekly series. To see previous questions click here. To submit your own; tweet it to @AlexBerger, ask it in a comment on this post or send it in by e-mail.

This week’s travel question is from Jane who asks,

Q. “Alex, I have a big hostel trip coming up and am trying to pack light. Do I really need to pack an extra set of sandals for the showers? Why?”

A. – Yep! Further, I suggest you stick to a cheap pair of plastic sandals/flip flops/thongs. I’ve seen a lot of people opt for a pair of leather sandals which they use as general shoes and also use for the hostel showers as well. I’d advise against this as it is both disgusting (the leather gets wet and soaks up nastiness) and rude (you’re tracking street germs into communal showers). If you opt for sandals instead of shoes on a day-to-day basis it is still worth packing a second pairs of sandals. One thing every hostel/backpacker should have is a set pair of dedicated hostel/shower sandals.

But why? Well simply put hostel showers are semi-communal in nature. They seldom see sunlight (which can kill a lot of bacteria) and are not always the cleanest in the world. Your average hostel dorm bathroom services at least 4 people and sometimes 10-20 times that. These are people from a variety of backgrounds traveling in a wide assortment of ways and with vastly different hygienic standards. While the average hostel goes out of their way to keep their showers clean, and all showers are cleaned on a daily basis, they still got a lot of use. You also never know if the person who just finished showering before you is freshly arrived from an undeveloped nation where they decided to walk around barefoot. So, while your chances of actually catching some sort of bacteria or nastiness from a hostel shower is relatively small…it is still a healthy enough risk that it’s well worth avoiding.

Also, at the risk of being overly graphic keep in mind the wide assortment of things that people do in the shower and consider that hostel bathrooms and showers are often one of the few areas in the hostel which A) have a lock on the door and B) are not under video surveillance. Ask yourself, is that really a place where you want to walk around barefoot?

-Alex

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The Dirtiest Hostel I’ve Visited – Ask Alex – Travel Question Wednesdays

Ask Alex - Travel Question Wednesdays

This post is part of the Ask Alex, Travel Question Wednesdays weekly series. To see previous questions click here. To submit your own; tweet it to @AlexBerger, ask it in a comment on this post or send it in by e-mail.

This week’s travel question is from Elijah who asks,

Q. “Where was the dirtiest hostel you’ve ever been to?

A. – Ahh, time for a hostel horror story, ehh?  While the vast majority of the hostels I’ve stayed in have been pretty good, there have definitely been a few that were memorable for all of the wrong reasons. Typically, I manage to do most of my research ahead of time using Hostelworld or HostelBookers. The reviews on these sites really help with the booking process, especially because they both have cleanliness ratings. However, sometimes you just don’t get the chance to research ahead of time or have to try a hostel which isn’t listed. That’s what happened to me in Greece.

It was December 2007 and I was traveling through Greece with a good friend.  It was off season and most of the hostels and hotels had closed for the winter.  Luckily those that were still open were willing to negotiate price.  As a result we were able to stay in private hotel rooms for the same price or less than we would have paid for a hostel.  That all changed when we arrived in Chania in Crete. We found a hostel, and checked in eager for the opportunity to socialize.  Unfortunately, the hostel wasn’t listed on most of the main resource sites (with good reason), was a European HI Hostel (which always makes me nervous) and as a result we ended up checking in blind.

The entrance and reception area was spartan and boring, but that’s the way of it sometimes.  The hostel was largely dead, which was a bit of a let down as we were hoping for a social atmosphere, but again, that happens. Especially in off season. The rooms, however, and more specifically the beds were where the hostel really failed and failed miserably. Now, usually in most modern hostels they provide you with clean sheets and freshly washed blankets, or at least a blanket cover. Some of the less hygienic just opt for a clean top sheet and bottom sheet while periodically washing the quilt/blanket. Many  modern hostels also have a plastic under sheet over the mattress for added sanitation and stain prevention. Unfortunately, the hostel we found couldn’t be bothered with any of that.  They offered us one sheet to go with the shaggy brown blanket already on the bed.  The status of the mattresses was…let’s just say, suspect at best.  Lumps were the least of my concerns as I very carefully spread my flat sheet out and did my best to avoid touching anything.  Then, there was the blanket.  It was still somewhat warm in the hostel, but December in Greece is still December even if you are all the way down in Crete.  I looked at the blanket, which boasted more than a few questionable spots and cigarette burns and decided to throw it on the ground.  It seemed much healthier to sleep wearing every warm piece of clothing I could scrounge up.  I suppose theoretically the stains could have been permanent, and that perhaps they washed the blankets after every visitor.  Given the general state of hygiene around the rest of the hostel though, I highly doubt it.

Unfortunately, the rest of the place was equally disgusting.  The bathrooms were grungy and the showers did little to leave you feeling clean and refreshed.  I think the hostel serves mostly as a drunken crash pad during the summer months for beach goers and drugged out party animals. It likely takes a lot of abuse as a result, and the management seemed to have just given up bothering  with the maintenance side of things.

I was also fearful we’d pick up bedbugs as it was that type of place.  Luckily we escaped with only a few mosquito bites and a strong desire to take a shower and a long nap at the next place we stayed.

Unfortunately, I can’t recall the name of the hostel.  Though I also can’t imagine it’s still there, or in business.

That was the worst one that comes to mind from a sanitary/dirty perspective.  I’ve stayed in half-finished buildings, in the middle of floors under renovation,  with slobs, braved group showers and of course had a naked old man towel off in the middle of the room…but when it comes to unnecessary filth.  That hostel is the one that stands out.

Still, even despite the occasional hostel disaster I find that I love them and will take them over a hotel stay in most situations!   If you’ve got a filthy hostel story of your own feel free to share it in a comment!

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