I have to say, I’ve had pretty decent luck with hostels so far. They aren’t the usual dingy hole-in-the-walls that they used to be, with a reputation for uncleanliness and lack of safety. These days many hostels are making their way towards ’boutique hostels’, which are actually more like hotels.
I’ve had hostels with free breakfast, privacy curtains, individual plugs and lamps for each bed, your own locker for your things, complementary soap/shampoo, ample kitchen/fridge space, and lots of great decor that makes you feel cozy. Actually that seems to becoming more of the standard these days.
Now to be fair, they haven’t all been like that. I’ve stayed at places that were a bit more on the bare bones side of things, with only the essentials to sustain you. But as you’re not generally in your dorm room all that much, save for a much needed day of watching Netflix and vegging out, it’s never really that much of a problem.
Enter Dover Backpackers in Dover, England.
Generally speaking, I always book my hostels on HostelWorld.com. It’s options are fairly extensive, it’s easy, and they have great customer service. They also provide you with directions, sometimes a free city guide, and, most importantly, reviews.
Unfortunately, there aren’t exactly a lot of hostels here in Dover, a place infamously known for its stunning White Cliffs, and as a port of call for ferries between England and France (on a clear day you can actually see all the way over to France!). There were two hostels listed, and neither of them with a high score or good reviews. Oh boy.
I would have stayed in Brighton instead and made Dover more of a one day thing, but there was no hostel availability in Brighton for the weekend, and the cheapest train ticket back to London was on Monday which I’d already pre-booked, so I decided to risk it and spend the whole weekend, three long nights, in Dover.
Don’t get me wrong, the Cliffs are beautiful, the Dover Castle is seriously cool and imposing from the top of the hill, and the town, while rather poor, has some cute shops and a pleasant waterfront area.
But the Dover Backpackers Hostel? WORST HOSTEL EVER. Ok maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but it was definitely the worst hostel I’ve stayed at so far.
It’s located over a bar. Now that’s not always a problem, and lots of hostels I’ve stayed in have bars, or are over a bar, but the walls of this place are paper thin, and I could hear people’s conversations from two floors up. Until 2am the music would shift from K-Pop, to 80s rock, to Josh Groban, and, I kid you not, High School Musical.
It was dirty. There were stains on the bedspreads, on the sheets, and the whole place had a really weird smell to it. On top of that you could feel every spring from the mattress when you were laying down. Since there weren’t many others sharing my room, I ended up sleeping on top of the comforter, and taking the comforter from another bed to use as a blanket. I don’t think the floors had probably ever been vacuumed.
The bathroom and the hallway lights didn’t work, there was no hot water, no lockers to keep your things secure, the kitchen had a cleanliness rating of 3 out of 5 taped to the door from the health department (it wasn’t terrible but it definitely wasn’t great), and I was constantly freezing because the heat wasn’t on. It was hands down the worst hostel I’ve stayed in in my year of traveling.
It Gets Worse…
Then, on Saturday night around 10pm, a VERY drunk man was led to my dorm room by an older woman. She was very sweet, told him to sleep it off, be respectful of the other people in the room, and left him with me. Great.
He was loud, he was disgusting, and he was constantly smoking in the room. I would wake up basically choking on the smoke, and even when I asked him to smoke out the window, the breeze just blew it back in anyway. He was very strange, started asking me how old I was and if I had a boyfriend (and while I don’t, I absolutely told him I did and that I was taking the train the next day to London to see him). I tried to ignore him as much as I could, and thankfully it worked for the most part.
Overall he was nice enough, just extremely weird and drunk. I was glad when, around 3am, the nice Kiwi who was also staying in the door room returned from his night out. I felt a bit better with someone else in the room.
I woke up at 5am to the sounds of him puking in the bathroom (thankfully not the room), and then had the pleasure of listening to him amble back, coughing up a lung, and lighting up a cigarette in the room. Then around 7am I woke to him laughing loudly to himself. Needless to say I didn’t get much sleep. And I still had one more night of this place to endure. Oh happy day.
The next night started out fine, with just me, the Kiwi from the night before, and another nice guy from Leeds on his way to a concert in Germany. We all called it an early night, lights were off, when around 10:30pm an old French guy turned up. He too was very strange, wanted to have a chat with all of us, sat in the dark munching on some cookies, then stripped down to his tiny boxer briefs before climbing to the top bunk (thankfully not above me) in the weirdest fashion I’ve ever seen. Instead of just climbing up the ladder, he jumped onto the windowsill, then leaped onto the bed. In only his boxer briefs.
Sorry for the disturbing mental image. It’s seared into my brain as well I can assure you.
The only redeeming quality of this place was the fact that I did meet some nice travelers who were staying there, and they had free bacon, eggs, cereal, and toast in the morning. I spent my days working on my blog in a coffee shop, then wandering around the Cliffs and seaport area. Then, when I ran out of things to do (Dover isn’t exactly a hopping place), I would grudgingly make my way back to the worst hostel ever.
Needless to say, come Monday morning, I couldn’t jump on the train to London fast enough.
Have you ever stayed in a really terrible hostel? Did you have to stick it out or did you hightail it out of there?