Travel Stories: Worst Hotel Experience

young Rick Steves in hotel

It’s rare that I laugh out loud while reading comments online. But I’ve been doing exactly that over the last few days, reading all your crazy travel stories here on the blog and over on Facebook. Thank you! Let’s keep those laughs going. Up next, please share your memories of the most ridiculously awful experiences we’ve had at hotels. (It’s funny after the fact, right?)

For 20 years, I spent a good part of my travels visiting and assessing hotels for my guidebooks. From Helsinki to Lisbon to Istanbul, I’d assemble a list of places in the morning and then spend the entire day looking for winners. When it comes to hotels, I’ve seen just about everything.

Back when I led tours on a minibus, I once checked into a B&B with a small tour group. The place was right on a pagan “ley line” in England’s New-Agey town of Glastonbury. Within five minutes, we were all in the hallway, certain that the place was haunted. We grabbed our bags, and — like characters in a Halloween cartoon — we all ran to our little bus, loaded up, and hightailed it out of there.

Young Rick Steves in van

While hotel beds are reliably good these days, in the old days, you always had to check them. Mattresses in the Mediterranean region were often big yellow sponges (very sweaty), and saggy bed frames routinely had me moving my mattress to the floor for some support.

In France’s Champagne region, a hotel I was staying at was wonderful in all regards — except for its rubber-lined bottom sheets. (These make me sweat. When I encounter one anywhere — even in the USA — I make a point of taking it off the bed, folding it up, and setting it in the hallway). I asked the owner, “Why the rubber sheets?” He said that using them is the only way he can protect his expensive mattresses…because so many tourists sample too much Champagne, then vomit in bed.

And in a dusty village in Turkey, I remember complaining to the man at the hotel reception desk that my sheet was dirty. He came up, checked the sheet, agreed with me…and turned the sheet over.

What about you? Any hilariously horrible hotel experiences?