20 Signs You’re Staying in a Really Bad Hotel

bad hotel review

We’ve all stayed in bad hotels but some are worse than others. Here’s how to know if the bad hotel you’re staying at is just slightly meh or stratospherically horrible.

1. Flaw-filled Customer service

When you check in the hotel manager greets you. You’re probably the first Westerners to stay in his hotel since local rioting made international headlines several years ago. Then he throws the room keys randomly in your direction.

You watch as the keys slide across the desktop and grind to a halt. If the surface had been cleaner they would have travelled a few centimeters further and landed at your feet. Needless to say, you carry your own bags upstairs and find your own room.

2. Stale smell of neglect fills the air

When you finally manage to unlock your room door and wrench it open an unidentifiable smell awaits you. On further reflection you decide it’s probably a unique blend of cigarette smoke, mould and dust, gently infused with the ancient body odour of past guests. Or possibly the actual rotting body of a past guest who has recently deceased.

3. You could write ‘clean me’ in the dust

When you hit the light switch a ceiling-mounted double-barred bare strip light flickers reluctantly to life. It casts a sickly yellow glare, despite being gently furred with several years worth of dust and bugs.

4. Things fall to pieces

Because natural light would be preferable, you cross the small room and draw the curtains. A tacky layer of grime sticks to your fingers before the curtain rails clatters to the floor, taking the curtains down with it.

5. Room with an anti-view

Your window overlooks a puddle-pocked carpark whose only evidence of life is a lone man sprawled on the ground. From the look of him he might not have long to live. You struggle to rehang the curtain rail as fast as posssible and decide to keep the curtains tight shut.

6. Warped walls

Casting another look round the room you notice the walls are made from thin, woodlook plastic which is pulling away from the seams in places and curving gently out in others. It appears that even the hotel walls would like to burst their seams and get the hell out of there.

7. To Don’t Lists

A dog-eared sheet of A4 is taped to one wall reading:




8. Notices from The Management are breeding

Two more A4 ‘Notices’ are stuck to the walls, these ones laminated to show their great importance. One lists hotel rules A-F and the other is written in a fancy, frilled font, with another plea to guests, this time signed ‘The Management’.


9. Refreshment-free zone

You could do with a drink to take the edge off and there’s a full-sized fridge in the room which could comfortably hold food for a family of five for a week. Alas, the fridge interior is warm and empty.

10. Furnishing fail

There’s a saggy, sofa in the room too, which could have been picked up in the street refuse collection in your hometown. It looks like a man-eating sofa and could be hiding a corpse or three. If you sit on it you may disappear without a trace.

11. BYO shampoo

What the bathroom lacks in sweet smelling toiletries it makes up for with industrial cleaning products. The tiny wrinkled bar of handsoap has already been used. Next to that sits a plastic pot of Axiom, a solid washing up product that’s popular in developing countries and which promises “100% effective in grease removal!” You wish they’d used some of it around the hotel.

12. Abrasive toilet paper

The toilet paper is the type of crepe paper you last used to make crafts at playschool. Except it’s grey, not red, blue or green.

13. Temperamental taps

The sink taps don’t work but you consider it a win that you can wash your hands in the shower. The towel is wafer thin towel  so you dry  your hands gingerly lest it rip.

14. Restaurant off off hotel

There’s no restaurant in the hotel or anywhere nearby but fact that there are no refreshments on site is a plus since it gives you the perfect excuse to leave the hotel already.

15. Bugs bug you

When you return to the hotel after dark a handful of out-sized cockroaches are lurking on the walls. You spend an unhappy hour chasing them, squishing them with the sole of your shoe and cleaning up the mess with the crepe/toilet paper.

For added security you spray mosquito repellent around your bed in a circle on the floor. Even though you know cockroaches can fly you feel better that you’ve tried to keep them away from your bed.

16. Shameless plug noticeable by its absense

Thinking the cockroaches could have crawled up the not-working sink plughole, you decide to plug it up to stem the flow of bugs. That’s when you notice there’s no plug. So you push toilet paper over the sink hole instead, and up the taps for good measure.

17. Creeps come knocking

There’s a knock on the door and when you peep out through the glass window in the door a man asks if you know who’s staying in another room. You don’t. He then asks if you’re alone. You tell him your husband is with you. You sincerely wish it were true.

18. Bad bedding

Retreating to bed you notice the polyester bedding is bobbled and brown. But ‘The Management’ have throughfully written the name of the hotel in permanent marker pen on the sheets in case you’ve forgotten where you’re staying.

19. Unintended digital detox

There’s no WiFi or even a dial up connection so you can’t regale your friends with selfies of you reclining on the bad bedding with an audience of cockroaches.

20. You feel blessed

In the morning you hear that the President of the country is coming to stay at this very hotel the day you check out. You’re sure it must be a joke because there’s no presidential suite in sight. But it’s true.

This is the best hotel in town and Mr. President will be visiting for a major local event. Poor guy. You’re just a blow in from overseas, but surely the President deserves better.

But curiously although the hotel is bad it makes you feeling lucky to have stayed in better places and it reminds you that there are worse things than staying in a bad hotel, like never having the chance to travel.

So the experience creates a sense of belonging, an invisible bond between you and all the other travellers who’ve ever stayed in a bad hotel, and for that you are grateful. Although you still can’t wait to get the hell out of there…

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  1. Mark Spivak February 7, 2017 at 5:35 am - Reply

    Hysterical post, and very close to the truth in a lot of places. It brought back some great memories of my backpacking days (great in retrospect only). Our standard procedure in places like the one described was to ask to see the room first before committing ourselves, and then using its shortcomings as bargaining chips to bring the price down.

  2. John Miller February 7, 2017 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    Thank goodness there’s tripadvisor and other hotel review sites, I at least get a heads up of what to expect. But you’re right, staying in a crappy hotel can make one more grateful for the being blessed with so many good things in life.

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