Here at The Broke Backpacker, we LOVE hostels. And collectively, we’ve spent YEARS staying in them at this point.
Hostel life is exactly that– a lifestyle. But that doesn’t mean each and every backpacker’s enclave is cut from the same cloth.
Some hostels are merely uneventful budget accommodations that you simply pass through.
And then there are others that truly encapsulate the essence of “the hostel experience.” Moments that you’ll cherish forever, or for some… memories that would be better off forgotten.
So to give you some raw and unfiltered insight into what hostels are really like, here are a few of our team’s best hostel stories dug up from the archives.
Dirty deets incoming!
Why Stay in a Hostel?
Well, you won’t get to create any hostel stories if you don’t actually stay in a hostel.
But seriously, there are a ton of reasons why hostels are our favorite type of accommodation.
When done right, hostels bring wayward travelers from all over the world together into one, weird sticky place that ends up feeling like home. Yes, backpacker hostels often lead to wild nights, illicit substances, and downright insane moments, but they can also give you friends for life, or in some cases: change your life.
Many of us (myself included) even ended up as travel editors thanks to chance meetings in far-flung hostels. But the benefits of hostels are basic, too.
Such backpacker enclaves are also:
- Cheap AF! You can’t broke backpack without hostel dorms
- Often come with sick perks like free breakfast or group excursions
- Outfitted with communal kitchens where you can make your own meals
At the end of the day though, it’s the people you meet along the way that make hostel life worth living and writing about.
11 EPIC Hostel Stories
Without further ado, I present you with 11 wild, crazy, and sometimes wonderful tales of hostel life as told by The Broke Backpacker team…
Will’s Wholesome Hostel Story
It was 2014, and I was spending Christmas in a middle-of-nowhere hostel somewhere in Sofia, Bulgaria, with an electric group of people, to say the least. We hailed from each and every corner of the world, yet somehow found ourselves together for the special day.
Spending the holidays away from home can be difficult, but with this group, I somehow felt like I was home. To get into the holiday spirit, we all came together to cook a huge Christmas dinner, which featured a MASSIVE chicken, wine, and an impressive array of sides. The conversation even moved away from cheeky backpacker banter to a point where we found ourselves sharing the deep, personal tales that had brought us together.
This led to a bonding experience unlike almost any other, one so memorable that here I am, reminiscing about it nearly 9 years later. We went around the table and talked about what we were grateful for and what we were looking forward to in the year ahead.
It was just a beautiful experience, and after more than a decade on the road, staying anywhere and everywhere all over the world, it’s this hostel story that stands out to me the most.
A trailblazing adventurer, Will has been on the road since he was nineteen and many of his early reports from the road paved the way for the broke backpacker blog we know and love today. These days, Will has taken a step back from travel writing and is to be found in Bali where he runs Tribal Bali, the island’s first custom designed co-working hostel.
Naughty Or Nice? Aiden Does Christmas in Tijuana
Just over the border from San Diego, Tijuana is a true frontier town. The road that leads away from San Diego towards the city center is lined with doctors and dentists catering to Americans who can’t afford treatment in their home country, and once you hit the town it’s essentially a fiesta of debauchery. So perhaps I should have expected my hostel to be packed out with half-crazy, entirely male, guests all working their way towards cocaine-induced heart failure and hooker-inspired bouts of syphilis – but yet it took me by surprise.
Needless to say, it was the wildest and scariest hostel I had ever stayed in yet I nevertheless entered into the spirit of things, took a few beers from the fridge, and got amongst the crazies. Hell, I even felt almost at home.
After some beers, I went out for food, heart failure, and syphilis, and then returned to my hostel to find that one of the guests (a big, fat, bearded Canadian trucker) had changed into a Santa Claus outfit (do you travel with a Santa Claus outfit?), was ringing a bell and shouting “Ho ho ho” in between gargantuan gulps of Tequila. It was November by the way.
After a few more beers, I decided to retire to my private room (no way was I dorming with this crowd…) and after some time, managed to drift off into dulce suenos.
Only to be awoken with a start. My private room door busted open and Santa Claus stumbled into my room. All of my childhood nightmares were coming true!
“Dude what the fuck are you doing?!” I shouted.
“Sh, sh, shit, shorry” he mumbled. But the next thing that came out of his mouth was a thick waterfall of vomit which he sprayed all over my floor before turning around, stumbling out of my room and down the corridor.
Is this some weird Mexican Christmas tradition I thought to myself? If your naughty Santa comes and throws up on your bedroom floor? Well from now on I better make sure I’m nice…
Aiden joined The Broke Backpacker in 2016. When not DJing Psytrance, Aiden is an explorer of uncharted countries, under-rated museums, and unsanitary dive bars in need of a good deep clean. If he’s not doing that, you’ll likely find him attending to his hair maintenance routine – he never hits the road without a hairdryer.
Ecstasy + Insanity: India’s 2020 Lockdown in a Hostel
I was traveling India for about a month when it happened. I had just come from Sri Lanka and I was a bit tired of “running around” because I had been on the road for a few months at this point.
I did a couple of weeks in Goa, headed towards Hampi and overstayed as much as possible until a good friend suggested that I join him up in Pushkar.
So far, so good.
I remember getting to the hostel in Pushkar and being greeted with big smiles, long hugs, and the chillest fucking vibe you could ask for. I had a great feeling about it.
Weeks passed and it quickly became obvious: I had found my sticky place. I fell in love with it, I really didn’t want to leave. And the gods may have heard that…
It was March 2020, and Europe was going crazy with news of the Coronavirus. Friends and family would reach out, worried, and I just couldn’t understand the issue. Everything was fine there: I was free, there was music, there were joints.
Every day we would enjoy the world around us, have lunch outside, hike to a temple in the mountains, and end the evening with a nice little jam session.
One day my friend decided to leave for fear of getting stuck there. The alternative was to be stuck back home, which sounded even worse, but I understood his decision. The next day, a national lockdown was announced in India. Uh-oh…
The calm before the storm.
What followed were 3 weeks of blissful insanity, joy & sadness, laughter & crying… First, there was panic. Then, acceptance, and only later, desperation. I was stuck in a hostel in the middle of the Rajasthani desert with 8 other travelers from every corner of the world, and it truly felt like a proper dystopian reality TV show, where everybody played their own character and evolved with time.
When the lockdown was announced there was a slight shock, but in retrospect, I think I handled it pretty well. There was no better alternative, I mean, people back home were already shit-scared and locked inside for a while.
At least this still felt like adventuring, and all within reasonable levels of safety & comfort given the uncertainty of times. I was paying around $2 for my own private room in a hostel with plenty of outdoor space, I had food, and I read & wrote a lot — which eventually landed me a job with these broke backpacker bastards. 😉
Every day was a new page of the story, as people fought their way out of boredom and found ways to stay entertained. We kept each other sane (or tried) by doing all sorts of activities: from drawing sessions to yoga, jamming, or simply napping together after being destroyed by the infamous bhang lassis. Every night, sharing dinner like an actual family kept us closer together.
We shared walls with a hostel in a similar situation, though they didn’t seem so lucky with the people-to-space ratio over there. Sometimes we would chat with them and share how we were feeling, almost as if from one prison cell to the other. At some point, we started playing for them every night — and by we I mean Borja, the crazy busker that moved in a couple of days before shit hit the fan.
The speed at which time went by was sometimes hard to tell. “An endless loop of infinite tomorrows”, my diary reads. Nobody knew exactly what was going to happen, and even though there was a lot of fun in the mix, there were also times of extreme tension.
One day, the dudes that ran the hostel next door started climbing down our walls, angrily shouting with metal pipes in their hands. They were coming for one of our staff members that allegedly helped one of their guests bring booze inside (Pushkar is a sacred pilgrimage place where alcohol is prohibited).
When I write this down now, it almost sounds made up. And trust me, at the time I didn’t wanna believe it either, but it was very real and scary as hell. Luckily, the dude that owned our hostel was a legend (miss you, Guneet). He stood still, let them shout in his face, and proceeded to sit them down to solve things like proper adults. And by that I mean with the help of a good ol’ Chillum sesh, aka the One true peace pipe to rule them all.
Between that and the regular police/doctor visits, there was no shortage of exciting happenings. But much like everywhere else in the world, things were unpredictable and times were tough — people struggled and the mind played its usual games fairly heavily.
Eventually, an opportunity arose to bypass state borders and get on a cab to Delhi, joining another backpacker refuge while waiting for a rescue flight back home. But that’s a story for another time. 😉
Part mindless, part mindful, and all goofball, Tomás believes he has mastered the Art of Chilling. You’ll likely find him in a sunny park, guitar in hand, and boiling hot tea by his side.
A Not So Magical MDMA Moment…
A close friend and I had gone up to Chiang Mai to do a motorbike loop around northern Thailand’s mountainous region. When we got to Pai (the area’s famous hippie town), we stayed in these little apartments in a quiet area, but my friend had been to a nearby hostel a few times. It was your classic backpacker space: an open field filled with slack lines, hammocks, bean bags, and chill zones.
So we went there in the evening, and our activity for the night was to take some MDMA and smoke weed because that’s what you do in a hippie town in the jungles of Northern Thailand. We were coming up a bit on that, and we smoked a bit of weed as well but hadn’t quite reached the come-up yet. Sinking into our bean bags and feeling as chill as one could possibly be, the night was taking off perfectly.
Until a startling voice screeched, “Hey guys come see my magic show!” in the loudest voice possible.
After he made an unfortunate return, the wailing about the magic show did too. Annoyed, but realizing the show was basically in front of us anyway, we decided to move closer and watch. Definitely not an ideal MDMA experience… and eventually we slinked away, re-finding our bean bags and trying to settle into the roll.
I guess this shows that while hostels are incredible social spaces where you meet the best people…sometimes you just want to get away and vibe on your own. Especially when ecstasy is involved 😉
A nomad often found in tropical locales, our writer has done the hostel life on multiple continents. Often delving into travelers’ favorite substances along the way, he could spend days telling you hostel stories from numerous continents.
Finding Love At a Hostel in the Netherlands…
From a hostel in the Netherlands, perhaps one of the best hostels in the world if we’re being honest. I arrive, I’m waiting at reception for a few minutes. One of the staff asks me if I want a coffee while I’m waiting. I’m not a big coffee drinker but he had a nice face and I had read an article before I went saying “you should say YES to more things because you don’t know where it will lead you”. So I accept.
Then I check in and I go in the backroom to smoke a joint. Said member of staff is jamming on guitar in a language I found out to be Spanish. I share my joint with said member of staff, we get to talking, and we’ve never been out of contact. Now said member of staff is my boyfriend of X amount of years.
Moral of the story: say YES to things.
Our editor Laura has spent too much time living with other people and, ironically, she doesn’t like sharing much either. But this is what she has to share with you…
The Shitty Side of Working at a Hostel…
Remember that time the guy from the bucks party came back at 3am and took a massive shit on a chair in the kitchen, right in front of the security camera, completely believing he was in the bathroom.
The abomination was discovered by horrified staff members arriving back to the hostel shortly after. They “solved” the problem by moving the offending chair from the kitchen to the communal garden area… which indeed did not solve the problem at all.
A bit of renegade around Southeast Asia and a proverbial master of long-stay travel, Clair finds herself caught between her many, many homes. She’s probably losing her purse, drinking wine, and seeking out her favorite street food vendors in a land far away.
When a Story Told at a Hostel Changes Your Life…
It was June 2018 and I was chilling in Pai, Thailand at an absolutely epic backpacker hostel. It’s closed now, but at the time it featured a huge field, bamboo huts complete with hammocks, and an on-site bar serving up all kinds of illicit goodies.
I was still a university student with a year left to go, BUT I had also been heavily bitten by the very cliche but very real travel bug. It was my first time in Asia (ever), and needless to say, I was absolutely LOVING it, thrilled to be on a “long” two-month trip.
Little did I know my world was about to be rocked, and my life changed forever in the span of one afternoon.
Whilst lazing in a hammock, I got to sharing joints and talking with a solo female traveler from England. Pai was my 4th destination in Thailand, but it was the first time I was having a real hostel experience, as my other hostel picks had been pretty dead.
As we got into discussing our plans, it was then that she told me she casually dropped the bomb that she was traveling for “at least two years.”
I was blown away–absolutely no one I knew from home traveled, and at that point, I didn’t even know what a “digital nomad” was.
I was amazed to say the least. It was that very night that my ideas of grad school or other cookie-cutter life choices fell out the window. I WOULD find a way to travel indefinitely, just as my new friend was.
After moving along to Laos, Cambodia, and even India in those two months, the universe seemed to lead me in the right direction almost as soon as I arrived home. It was then that I discovered blogging, and the world of long-term, full-time slow travel.
…and now nearly 5 years later, I’m somehow living my version of the digital nomad dream, as I type this from the world’s most beautiful mountains.
Funny how a hostel story can literally change everything.
A travel blogger and writer-for-hire, Samantha has been on the road in one way or another since 2017. Hailing from the USA, you’ll most likely find her gobbling up the delights of Asia, particularly South Asia, and PARTICULARLY Pakistan, in which she now calls the Karakoram Mountains home.
Megan Shares What NOT to DO in a Hostel…
My friend and I went to Berlin for 6 nights and stayed in a super popular hostel (although I think it’s closed down now) and it used to be a hospital or a school or something – anyway, super creepy vibes. We made friends with the Italian bartenders and they kept plying us with this minty liqueur called Berliner Luft, and to say I was drunk was an understatement.
We decided to try and sober up a bit before going out, so we headed back to our room and make a falafel wrap from the snacks we’d bought from Lidl earlier in the day. After spending what felt like several hours trying to find our room, we stumbled across it to find we had new roomies (it was a 4 bed dorm) who were fast asleep. Of course, we woke them up, which led to them shouting at us in Arabic.
We ended up locking ourselves in our bathroom desperately trying to pull a wrap together to sober up. We spent the best part of that evening in the bathroom of our dorm and when we finally awoke the next day (after heading out to a club until the early hours, and of course with a killer hangover) we discovered the girls had requested a room move and had left us a note saying how awful we were.
The moral of the story is don’t drink Berliner luft and also don’t be the annoying drunk people in a dorm that you would otherwise hate.
With a big passion for protecting the planet, she takes slow, sustainable travel very seriously and shares her passion with those that will listen. You can usually find her looking for her next campaign to get behind or picking up someone else’s litter.
That Time Nic Went Sleepwalking in Saigon…
When I’ve been traveling for a little while, moving a bit too fast, and staying in cheap dorms without much sleep I tend to get what I can only describe as anxiety-induced sleepwalking.
I travel with an expensive camera and laptop that are worth not only a bit of money but most importantly, travel memories and photos that due to crappy hostel wifi aren’t always backed up. So when I’m tired this all seems to build up and come out when I eventually fall into an exhaustion-induced deep sleep!
So I’m in this pretty ramshackle dorm in Saigon. We’ve just paid a decent amount of money to buy these motorbikes and we’ve got a long and pretty daunting but exciting trip ahead of us in the next few days … so I’ve got a bit on my mind.
We’re sharing the dorm with some pretty rowdy Scottish girls that like to drink and pop a few “vallies”. So it’s roughly 2 am and I’m in a deep sleep, they come bowling in and the noise and light trigger some kind of fight or flight reaction in me!
Whilst still asleep I burst through the curtains of my 3rd level bunk and landed in the middle of the room like Spiderman, like fully in the pose, crouched down with my hands on the floor, shouting at them to get away from my locker like an absolute maniac! .
..That’s when I woke up.
The Scottish girls are just silently staring at me like, what a freak! My partner flings open his curtains to see what’s going on and like a parent to a child shouts at me “get back to bed!”
So I sheepishly clamber back onto my bed and close the curtains in embarrassment.
I’m just laid there then like, WTAF. My heart was beating so hard and fast I thought I might have a heart attack, I was shaking and covered in sweat. It took me a good while to calm down and all the while I could hear whispering.
We left a couple of days later and the Scottish girls never so much as made eye contact with me again. Understandable really! This same thing happened to me a couple of times again in dorms while traveling in China and Borneo, and was a good sign we needed to slow down and stay in a private room occasionally.
Nic has probably been to more countries than any of the other team members! Nic and their partner – together known as the Roaming Renegades – have been to over 60 countries so far, and the list is still growing.
One of Those Hostel Stories that Hits Too Close to Home…
We’ve all done it.
You thought you got it so right. You’re sat chilling with some hostel buds, you have a beer. Then you have another beer. And another beer…
…Oh shit, now I’m walking like fucking Bambi…
But nothing goes wrong. The night ends in success, and you slowly drift off into an alcohol-infused slumber.
Then you wake up. IT WAS A LIE. Vomit everywhere, your bunkmates hate you, and you feel like the rusted inside of your Dad’s toolkit.
As it so happens, this indeed happened to me at a lovely hostel near Lake Bled, Slovenia. My mate and I made friends and ended up playing this great card game. So we played the game and had a beer. And another. And another. Okay, maybe I drank too many beers, but I felt fine before I went to bed. I swear.
Cut to the morning. No no no no no. I still get secondhand embarrassment from myself. But, like any reasonable human, I leaped to the nearest cleaning supplies and did a stellar job of reversing the damage my stomach had done the night before.
But, filled with embarrassment, I couldn’t face telling the owner of the hostel that I had thrown up, so my friend and I went out for the day.
When we got back, I get a stern look from the hostel owner, who looks at me and says “Hello”. I say hi back. “You have something to tell me?”. Oh no. I don’t want to tell him. But I own up to my crime. Instead of slapping me with a rebuke or a fat fine however, he walks over to the bar and starts pouring a beer. Then he says “people come here, they throw up, and they leave. This beer is on me, because you cleaned it up”.
Moral of the story. Clean up your mess. It equals free beer.
A lover of the dirt cheap, Abraham is biding his time ’til he can take off someplace unexpected. One day, he will be driving a fat second hand 4×4 through his favourite countries. He is also a keen musician and producer, running an ongoing legendary DJ set, under the pseudonym “Abe’s Raves”.
Drugs on the Road, Andes Mountains Edition
When I look back on my backpacker days, there are decisions I made that I would never make again. Was this one of them? Fuck no. I’d do it again tomorrow.
Whilst sitting in the common room of a hostel in Cusco, Peru, I struck up a conversation with two strangers, as you do in hostel common rooms. Names and places of birth were exchanged, general travel plans, the boring ritual introductions that become commonplace on the road, but then…
“I heard of this place nearby. It’s a retreat centre owned by former Australian psychotherapists who now do group San Pedro sessions.”
“What’s that, mescaline?”
“Yes. The cactus is native to the Andes Mountains. I’ve heard good reviews.”
“Are you gonna do it?”
“Yeah, wanna come?”
Two “Why nots” were uttered.
A Londoner, a Swedish Cambodian (I’ve since forgotten their names), and a British American (that’s me) headed off to the mountains.
The first dose wasn’t strong enough, so we were forced to drink more of the vile-tasting, nose-goo-like substance. The eventual onset of swirling clouds, a man speaking to his sunglasses, and Van Gogh-esque stars were worth the extra hit. It took 10 hours to wear off, which is quite a long time for reality to be bent to such a degree.
Did I address my energetic disturbances?
Perhaps…It was profound and mind-boggling. The retreat center was respectful and knowledgeable of the long, cultural history that San Pedro cactus has in the region.
I don’t think you are supposed to go to such potentially emotional depths with people you’ve just met for mental safety, but they were good eggs. the ending consensus was of gratitude to have met each other that fateful morning in a hostel common room in Cusco.
We then went our separate ways; forever strangers thereafter.
Laura is a former English teacher who has travelled 25+ countries, lived in 9 of them, and taught in 5 of them. With a childhood passion for adventure spurred on by The Little Prince, she (temporarily) abandoned her studies in early adulthood to instead fly to South America and teach English. In her rather lengthy years on the road, she’s taught both a prince of Qatar and a Colombian soap opera-star.
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Final Thoughts on the Best Hostel Stories
Hostels have a knack for bringing the craziest chain of people and events together. Long-term backpackers always seem to have that one night in a hostel they’ll never forget… and as you can see, such a memory can take on many forms.
The thing about hostel stories is that one is bound to happen if you stay in enough of them. Hell, your very first hostel experience might be a life-changing one. But to find out, you’re going to have to do the obvious: book the bed!
Hostel life is wild, crazy, peaceful, and exhilarating ALL at the same time. If you’re not feeling the vibe, just head to another one. You never know when you’ll find the perfect hostel for YOU that will be the backdrop for travel stories you’ll be telling wide-eyed strangers for years down the line.
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!