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Worst Hotels I've Ever Stayed At | Ummi Goes Where?

If you know me personally, chances are you already know that I’m the cheapest of cheapskates. You’d probably have heard of all the things I put myself through when I travel. But those who only know me on social media tend to only see the glamorous side of my adventures.

They see me strike a pose in front of the Taj Mahal, but what they don’t know is that I only had bananas for my last few days in India. They see me hop on a plane to attend a last-minute event in Singapore, but they don’t know that I had to sleep in a carpark that night. No, not inside a car. On a bench.

All those things rarely made it into Instagram. But in this article, I will share with you snapshots of the two worst hotels I’ve ever stayed at.

My General Attitude Toward Hotels

Even now that I’m not as broke as I used to be, I don’t like spending on accommodation. Why waste money on hotels when you could spend it on other more meaningful stuff, like food and experiences? Why spend big bucks on a room if you’re only going to be in it for a few hours?

But especially in the earlier years of my travels, I would really go out of my way to find the cheapest accommodation possible. The cheaper, the better. I wasn’t too fussy about comfort or cleanliness. Sometimes, the shared bathrooms were barely functioning. The toilets wouldn’t flush, and there was no toilet paper or faucet (you’d better bring your own toilet paper or a bottle of water to wash yourself with).

None of that mattered to me.

Bandung, Indonesia

August 2011

I arrived in Bandung, Indonesia with no hotel reservation. This was before booking apps. I’m not sure if Booking.com had existed back then, but if it had, I wasn’t aware of it. My phone was too ancient to connect to the internet anyway.

So, if I wanted to secure a room in those days, I’d either have to call or e-mail the hotel. Usually, I just went with no booking whatsoever and hoped for the best.

That was my plan for Bandung. Unfortunately, my plane landed much later than expected. It was already night time. To top it off, I got held up at the airport like I usually did in most Indonesian airports. It seemed like Indonesian immigration officers were particularly wary of solo travelers. Especially the ones without hotel reservations.

So, I had to go through rigorous body checks and answer the standard probing questions:

“Why are you traveling alone?”

“Where are you spending the night?”

“Who’s funding your travels?”

“Do you know anyone in Indonesia?”

“If you haven’t been here before and you don’t know anyone here, how come you know so much about Bandung?”

It was as if these people had never heard of Google. I was one of the last passengers left at the airport. With me, there was a Japanese guy who was also traveling alone. He had it worse — the officers took him to another room to undress for a ‘routine check’.

When they finally let us off, we shared a taxi and asked the driver to take us to the cheapest hotel available. The Japanese tourist didn’t have any hotel booking either.

And that was the story of how I found myself in this ‘fascinating’ ‘hotel’ in Bandung.

The lobby was a decrepit living room/coffee shop, where a few men sat drinking. After making our payments, we were taken to our rooms on the second floor.

I didn’t get to see what the Japanese guy’s room looked like, but this was mine:

Worst hotel in Bandung | Ummi Goes Where?

The bed was so low and half the springboard had collapsed, making one side of the mattress sag to the damp floor, where roaches and lizards were playing tag. The window was broken and only half covered with newspaper.

worst hotel in Bandung
The window, half covered with newspaper.

Oh well. I was tired and hungry, and in any case, I had already paid for this shit hole, so I might as well make the best of it.

worst hotel bandung
Making myself at home — eating an apple for dinner.

I soon figured out that it was a love motel where cheap men took their mistresses for a few hours of rendezvous. There were writings on the wall commemorating their love.

Worst hotel in Bandung | Ummi Goes Where?
I just had to write something too.

This one is slightly more poetic:

Worst hotel in Bandung | Ummi Goes Where?

Rough translation:

“To the love I lost, I hope you will understand all this. This room has been the only witness to our love. Nobody else can understand what is in our hearts and our dreams. I pray that you can return to your wife and kids who must have missed your love. I’m only a lady of the night, but I have feelings too, just like the rest. Goodbye, love.”

I slept okay throughout the night. The next morning, we checked out at the same time, and went on to explore the city together and laugh about our experience. He insisted on taking a photo of me, so I took one of him too.

worst hotel bandung
If anyone knows him, please help me get in touch. I’d love to catch up.

Guilin, China

July 2016

The second worst hotel I encountered was in Guilin, China. This time, I used Booking.com. The booking was done haphazardly months before the trip. I had picked the cheapest accommodation without much thought, just so I could have an address for my visa application form.

My plan was to cancel the booking and do a more thorough search closer to the date. But I forgot all about it. By the time I remembered, it was too late. The free cancellation period was over and I would be penalized if I didn’t show up. A tiny amount, but still. Money is money.

So, show up I did — after more than an hour looking for the hotel because nobody in the area spoke any English. It was quite a distance away from the main tourist spot where most other hostels/hotels were.

The young landlady was nice though. I paid her for two nights and let her show me to my room. And what a room it was.

worst hotel guilin
This was what greeted me as soon as I entered.

The photos on the booking app weren’t that pretty, but they definitely didn’t look like this. The whole room was covered in mold — from the walls, to the ceiling, and the curtains, if you could even call them that. The ceiling fan was almost black with dust and grime accumulated for God knows how many years.

worst hotel guilin
The beautiful ceiling fan.

There was a dusty table and on top of it, a small TV with all the buttons missing. The only saving grace was that it had an en-suite bathroom, which was — funnily enough — cleaner than the room.

It was already getting dark, and there was nothing nearby other than residential areas. I was too knackered to go find food, so I skipped dinner and went to bed.

The next morning, I woke up to all my stuff smelling of mold. As miserly as I was, there is a limit to everything, and I had reached mine. I quickly packed up my stuff and told the landlady I would be checking out.

She seemed genuinely confused why I wanted to leave so soon (I thought it was pretty obvious why), and although I hadn’t expected her to refund my payment for the remaining night, she did.

A Better Alternative to Hotels

Most of these misadventures I had with regard to hotels took place before I discovered the secret to getting free accommodation around the world.

You can find out more by watching this video. Granted, this solution may not be for everyone, but it worked fabulously for me every time.

Posted in Travel Tips

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67 Comments

  1. Josy A

    Lol oh noooo Ummi! I have stayed in a couple of dives, but these are impressive! It almost looks how you’d imagine a crack house in a movie! I am glad you were okay and that you didn’t get bed bugs!!

    Having said that, the mold is the worst! Even if I have paid I’d have to leave if there is that much mold. It always makes me sooo sick! 🙁

    • ummi

      Hahaha yah, no bed bugs fortunately! I was so naive then I don’t think I even knew how a bedbug looked like 😆

      Anyway, I’m happy for these experiences because it’s nice to look back and laugh at yourself sometimes. I have (slightly) higher standards now.

    • ummi

      Thank you, Sara! Yes, I’ve had some interesting experiences indeed. Now that I’m older, I sometimes look back and marvel at my younger self 😄

  2. Katja

    Omg haha these are really unique finds 🙂 I´ve stayed in maybe 2 similar ones back when I was a student and didn´r really care but I don´t think they were as bad haha. Glad nothing ever happened to you, was fun to read this 🙂

    • ummi

      Hahaha the things we did when we were young, right? I can laugh at them now. And I’m glad nothing happened to me too. 😄 Thanks for stopping by, Katja!

  3. Sue

    I certainly don’t miss those days of travel on a tight budget! I’ve had a few horror stories over the years. Nowadays if I don’t have a room booked I just put down the address of a hotel in Lonely Planet which generally works to avoid the questions at immigration. Often if I have an address it’s only for the first few nights anyway.

    • ummi

      Ah that’s a great tip I wish I had known back then. I was always too honest with immigration officers, and perhaps also secretly proud of my carefree (read: reckless) attitude that I had no qualms about telling everyone that I was alone and didn’t have any hotel booking 😬

  4. Anita

    Interesting read. I usually concentrate on my positive experiences. If talking about bad experiences I would mention a hotel in London not operating under this name anymore with a great story, not cheap, but the room was extremely cramped. Another bad experience was with my first Airbnb experience in Sanfrancisco. The price was decent, the pictures great, but the constant smell in the apartment made it all worthless.

    • ummi

      Oh I appreciate my positive experiences and negative ones all the same. The negative ones, most of the time, make better stories 😄.

      I hope you didn’t give up on airbnb. I’ve had some pretty nice stays using that app. But ya, it’s kinda a hit and miss thing.

  5. Ophelie

    OMG poor you how could you stay is those ugly places!! I do not want to waste money and when I travel solo I usually booking an hostel – but not like those! My worse experiences are dreams compared to yours haha!

    • ummi

      Hahaha let’s just say I was young and dumb and broke 😆. But I’ve grown up since then. These days, I still book hostels sometimes, but I mostly couchsurf.

  6. Margarita

    Oh gosh, these two gems look like what I imagine CIA’s black sites to look like. You are a brave soul to stay in either of those palaces. They do make for a good story though 🙂

    • ummi

      Thank you, Margarita! I had to google what a CIA Black Site is 😂. In a way, I’m actually glad I got to experience this when I was young. At my current age, I wouldn’t have balked at the idea. 😆

  7. Michelle

    I always love hearing about what *really* goes on behind the travel pics we share on social media. Any professional traveler knows there’s always a story behind the photograph!

    • ummi

      Oh, don’t we all know that a little too well? Hahaha. I really don’t mind sharing my less than stellar experiences, but usually not on instagram, as I don’t want to tarnish my feed! 😛

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  9. Chloe Beaver

    Most travelers & influencers only share the highlight reels of their experiences, so I greatly appreciate hearing about your not-so-great experiences as well! It goes to show we are all human, and not every minute of being abroad is comfortable and positive. Also, thank you so much for introducing me to Couchsurfing! I will definitely be using this the next time I travel.

    • ummi

      Yes, Chloe! People need to know the unglamourous side of traveling. Friends back home seem to think that I have an endless supply of money because I travel so much. The truth is my whole day abroad probably cost less than their lunch. Haha.
      Glad that I got to introduce you to Couchsurfing — it’s practically a life saver. Hope you’ll use it in your future travels 🙂

  10. Iuliana Marchian

    I think we all have a story with a hotel like that. My worst experiences were in Thailand where hotels/ or guesthouses usually don’t have windows, but only wood perforated shutters. If the hotel is close to a noisy street, you are dead, you won’t be able to sleep even with the best ear-plugs.

    • ummi

      Ugh.. I hate noise, be it when sleeping or awake. But when I was younger, I could pretty much sleep anywhere, in any condition. I sometimes envy my younger self.

  11. Linda (LD Holland)

    I may be easier to compile a list of the worst hotels we have stayed at too. Our hotel choices often depend on how long we are staying and whether we plan to spend time in the hotel. I am not sure we have ever had an extensive grilling when we visited a hotel. A bad bed is a big issue for me. Hate to be tired and grumpy. And it would be awful to leave a hotel with your clothes smelling moldy.

    • ummi

      Me too, Linda. If I plan to spend very little time in the hotel, I’d choose the cheapest one possible. The grilling I had was at the airport though, not at the hotel.
      At that age, I didn’t really mind about the kind of surface I slept on. A bad bed was better than sleeping on the streets. But the mold was my limit.

  12. Shreya Saha

    I can’t believe you actually stayed in that cringy place in Bandung. But hats off to you that you managed to actually spend the night there. The one in Guilin is equally miserable. The poem on the door is interesting though.

    • ummi

      Hahaha, thanks, Shreya. I can’t believe half of the things I did when I was young either. But I actually did manage to sleep on both occasions.

  13. Agnes

    What an experience! I had similar unpleasant situations, intrusive questions, and disgusting rooms during my first solo trip to India. I also had bed bugs. And once I brought bed bugs from a trip to Barcelona to my home, it was a huge problem. I had to change the bed. It’s good that you share your experiences—a much-needed article. Great that all your stories had a happy end.

    • ummi

      Oh no…bed bugs are the worst! I’d take molds over bed bugs any day. I once had experience with them too, not from travel, but from one of my colleagues (we shared a locker). Ended up having to throw my mattress away too. From India, I got scabies 😆. Interesting souvenir indeed. Hope, you enjoyed this article, Agnes, and thanks for sharing your story too.

  14. Bhushavali N

    I get you gal, I get you. I’ve slept in airports overnight and I’ve eaten just biscuits and cooked while traveling to save money. I get you! The cheapest ones I’ve chosen have been hostels and fortunately they were good for the money I paid and made some good friends there too. Too bad you ended up in such hotels. Thanks for the translation of the poem, it is sad and horrible at the same time.
    I’ve known of couchsurfing, but I’ve still not gotten around to use one. Good luck to find this man again. It would be awesome to have a coffee together and laugh about that sh*thole!

    • ummi

      Hahaha, you’re my type of traveler, Bhushavali! One has got to admire the willpower of a young broke backpacker who’s determined to see the world. I hope you’ll get to try Couchsurfing one day. I honestly think it’s one of the best travel inventions ever. I stay in hostels too sometimes, but nothing could beat Couchsurfing, in my opinion.
      And ya, I hope I’ll find this Japanese man and talk about our ‘memorable’ experience 😀

  15. Paul Healy

    Some of these shots look like scenes out of a horror movie, definitely the kind of places you’d sleep with one eye open. As a male traveller, I generally don’t get those intrusive questions though, that’s something I wouldn’t appreciate.

    • ummi

      Good for you, Paul! The Japanese traveler I met wasn’t as lucky.

      I think my experience had more to do with the fact that I looked suspicious — not carrying big luggage like most tourists do, not having a hotel reservation, etc. And maybe because there had been other cases of drug mules from Malaysia.

  16. Vaisakhi Mishra

    I am just shocked to be frank, more because of that room in Guilin. I get places can be low key and just livable but that one was horrible.Yeah money is money and even I would can’t let money go waste but I wouldn’t have been able to stay there for 2 nights. You are a brave women to stay in either of those palaces and as a solo traveler nonetheless. Oh and you are right, they do make for a good story 🙂

  17. Umiko

    Oh my gosh! I don’t think these places deserved a hotel title. Haha… I would leave right away, but I understand you didn’t have a choice for the one in Bandung. But you know what? I always told my friend, if you see travel bloggers showing off their pictures with beautiful views but never showed the hotel they stayed in, it meant they stayed at the possible cheapest hotel they could get at the destinations. Haha…

    • ummi

      Hahaha, that’s true though, Umiko! But I don’t mind showing the ugly side of my travels, so that people will stop assuming that I’m made of money. Maybe not on Instagram though, as I don’t like to ruin my feed. Haha!

    • ummi

      Hahaha, tu la pasal. Sambil berpuisi, sambil promote servis dia. Marketing bagus ni.
      Saya tak memilih sangat bab hotel, tapi kalau boleh taknak repeat lagi la tempat-tempat yang seteruk ni.

    • ummi

      Haha, entah la Nadia. Agaknya diorang fikir, nak buat apa susah2 bersihkan. Seteruk-teruk bilik tu pun, ada je customer yang sanggup duduk. Saya la antaranya. 😆

    • ummi

      Memang pengalaman yang sangat mahal, Marshaliza. Sampaikan saya lebih ingat hotel ni berbanding hotel-hotel mahal. Hahaha. Ni bukan calang-calang punya hotel 😉

  18. Sis Lin

    Makk aiii, ni tempat orang tido ke atau tempat ayam ni, ada ekk orang nak sewakan tempat macam ni? Kalau kena anak Sis, mau 1000 langkah dia rasa oiii.. terus terbayang tikus ke apa ke semua adeii Ummi oii…

    • ummi

      You definitely should, Rane! I’m a much more discerning traveler now, but to me, these were still valuable experiences nonetheless. 🙂

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  20. Fas

    Wow! Respect your adventurous style and courage when your host is even the opposite gender… guess no unrespectable wishes encountered from them right. Anyway u are really brave and wise to spend little yet manage to go round the world. Great job!

    • ummi

      Thank you so much, kak Fas. I did encounter some ‘unrespectable wishes’, but — as I mentioned — at least 90% of the time, I had amazing experiences.

    • ummi

      Hahaha, I actually tried to sleep at the airport in Bandung for my early-morning flight home. Unfortunately, the airport was not open 24 hours, so I had to wait outside anyway with the mosquitoes. Ended up spending the night at a car rental shop across the street.

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