How To Cope With Awful Accommodation

As young backpackers on a budget of just £25 per day between us, we spent our time in Southeast Asia scrimping on every penny we could. Apart from food, the majority of our budget was spent on accommodation and when you’re on such a thin shoestring you can end up in some pretty awful rooms. We very quickly acclimatised and developed some ways to cope with awful accommodation. 


Perhaps you’re bunking in a dorm where your room-mates are smellier than an Asian squat toilet, and there are 10 of you squashed into a room the size of a western bathroom. You might be tempted to break down, leave wet wipes on the offender’s bed as a subtle hint, or simply get drunk to survive the night; just remember that your suffering is temporary. Presumably, you’re only there for a short amount of time so spend it in the bar getting to know your fellow travellers, or go for a walk around the city to clear your mind (and your nose). It’s only temporary.


Travel forces you to make sacrifices and compromise on so many things; particularly when you travel as a couple. We found that accommodation was often the first thing that we scrimped on and the cheaper the room, the lower quality is likely to be. The way to get around this is to remember that this sacrifice is a necessary evil. Saving money on your room, where you won’t even be awake let alone spend much time, will allow you to go out and spend money doing other things. Why spend $$$ on a great room to spend all of your time at the beach, and then drag sand and water into your luxury bed?


In Bohol, in the Philippines, we decided to treat ourselves to 2 nights in an Airbnb near the beach. We had had a week of staying in cheap motels which were dirty and full of bugs so we thought we deserved a bit of a treat. As we arrived, we were greeted with a fresh mango juice and shown to our room which was beautiful. The bed was comfortable and the room was clean. We even had an ensuite! We were stoked at having some quality time together in a nice room. Until the sun went down, and we realised we weren’t alone. Over 60 cockroaches flooded into our room attracted by the light!

Having escaped the insects of the other hostels, the irony was not lost on us. We had to remember to laugh to get us through the night. This tip is a good mantra for travelling in Asia in general. Southeast Asia can be immensely frustrating, but if you can remember to laugh, it makes the experience much more pleasant.

Have you ever stayed anywhere like this? Did you laugh?


As you might expect, after this relatively sleepless evening of cockroach-watching in the Philippines, we moved rooms. Although we then had a two-day power blackout, at least we weren’t sharing with many bugs. If you’re in a rubbish situation, you can always move room or even hostel. We did so several times when the advert didn’t reflect reality.


If you are disappointed or even downright disgusted with your room, put in a complaint. This is the only way a hostel owner can improve their services. Plus, if you’re vocal enough you might even get a discount or, if you’re vocal and lucky, a full refund. 


This is perhaps the most effective way to express your frustration. If you have booked through Hostelworld or any of its competitors, you can leave a review on your booking to warn people of your experience. Hostel owners are very keen to receive positive reviews, so a negative one is usually enough of a kick up the proverbial to sort themselves out. 

On the whole, we’ve been quite lucky to have stayed in some cracking places in Southeast Asia. It’s a region famous for the backpacking lifestyle, so you should be able to find somewhere acceptable for your budget. But if you do end up in a hole, remember these tips and we promise you will survive anything Asia has to throw at you.

We would love to hear your stories of accommodation horror. You can send us an email, contact us on any of our social media channels, or leave a comment below.

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When you're stuck in rubbish accommodation, and you have to be there for a while, you might feel pretty awful. Here are six ways to cope with your stay.

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We're Sam and Katherine, a young British couple on the trip of a lifetime. We've navigated South East Asia on a tight budget, and we're currently based in Melbourne, Australia. South America is next on the list! Our story is a sign of the times - we met on Twitter! We've been a couple for three years now, but we're still learning about each other.
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5 thoughts on “How To Cope With Awful Accommodation

  1. Corinne Reply

    Don’t forget to laugh — you’re right. That’s the key. It’s hard to take stock sometimes and step back. But you really nailed it!

  2. Tara Reply

    Every traveler experiences awful accommodations now and then. I agree that it’s important to laugh about it when you can. I can sleep almost anywhere, so I always try to sleep cheap.

    • WhenTwoWander Post authorReply

      You definitely have to! Yep, we’ve stayed in some real palaces…

    • WhenTwoWander Post authorReply

      Yeah I think leaving feedback is crucial otherwise they’ll never improve! Thanks for your comment.

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