Hotel misadventures

OK, last week I got you with my imaginary worst hotel ever. I must admit I did get a bit convinced by this myself – it almost became real as I was writing it and yes I was inspired somewhat by Fawlty Towers. But the sad thing is that I was also inspired by real experiences and we all have memories of THAT hotel – especially when you are feeling a bit out of your depth in a foreign country, far from home and late at night. Our bedrooms are our safe places and perhaps something tries to convince us that we are the only people who have used this room. We know that doesn’t make any sense logically but I think this is why it freaks us out if we come across evidence of someone else’s stay.

You know what I mean. That stray hair in the shower, the chocolate wrapper under the bed, the lipstick mark on the coffee cup. Eewwww. You mean someone else has used this room in this mega hotel in the heart of downtown. I can’t sleep in a stranger’s bed.

That’s why the anonymity of a hotel room is so important. I once checked into a hotel for a conference. After a couple of flights to get there I wasn’t in any hurry to unpack so I arrived and immediately threw myself on the bed, switched on the tv, made a couple of phone calls. Eventually I thought I should at least unpack. Imagine my face when I opened the drawer and found it packed full of someone else’s undies! How the hell did someone leave behind their underwear. But … the other drawers were full of clothing as well. Then I went to the bathroom to check and yes – toothbrush, moisturizer – the works. I felt so uncomfortable. Called down to reception and found out that they had given me the wrong room by mistake and yes there was someone booked into that room.

So yes we have all had those nightmare hotels and thank you for sharing your experiences. Here are a few real nightmare hotel stays – some personal and some collected through the years from clients.

MIAMI – we were new to North America and did not know the hotel chains or areas. Ended up in a dodgy hotel in a dodgy area – what stuck out in my mind was that the remote control was CHAINED to the bedside table. That kinda gave me a clue that maybe this wasn’t the best choice.

LOS ANGELES – a family going down to Disneyland had a problem in their hotel room. It was an army of ants. There was a little hole along the skirting board and this was their free entry to swarm over anything that looked interesting – and you know when you travel with kids how they seem to scatter crumbs wherever they go – a bit like Hansel and Gretel. They did complain to reception who kept going up to the room and doing a clean but the ants kept coming back. The hotel was full so no chance of another room. They were quite proud when they told me that they had put paid to the ants’ excursions by plugging up the hole with toothpaste.

FIJI – now bugs can be something that freak you out – or not. And if they do freak you out then maybe tropical areas like Fiji should be avoided. I had a couple staying at a hotel in Fiji who said that they were being terrorised by bugs (not sure what type). Of course I contacted the hotel directly who told me that they had been in communication with the guest but that the bugs were just the natural bugs of the area such as lizards, beetles and mosquitoes. This was one query I picked up in Trip Advisor –

“Would anyone be willing to provide their thoughts on the bug/insect/reptile/etc. situation in Fiji, particularly in nicer resorts as mentioned above (if there is a difference). I don’t see a lot of discussion about this topic, but here and there I read reviews of people waking up with huge scary bugs in their room, or worse yet, on them. Is this the norm? A reality of life that might happen? A rarity? We are from NYC and don’t really know what to expect or how we’d react. We are both absolutely terrified of snakes. We don’t expect a pristine environment devoid of nature and life. But neither are we sure we are suited to deal with sharing our bure with bugs crawling around at night (or day).”

I totally understand the fear of insects – it’s a real thing. The hotel was very understanding too – but nature is nature.

UMNGAZI RIVER BUNGALOWS, SOUTH AFRICA – as a relative newcomer to South Africa I too was not used to the more exotic creepy crawlies. Coming from England I had no problem with spiders, frogs, slugs and snails (or even puppy dog tails – get it?). What I wasn’t prepared for were geckoes. These little lizard type creatures are very common in warmer climates like Natal in South Africa and they do a great job of cleaning up insects like mozzies and midges – but I was terrified of them and spent my first night lying in bed with the torch shining on them in case …. what? I don’t know. I just didn’t want them running all over me with their horrible little feet. Believe me – they didn’t want that either and stayed well away from me. But I understand the fear.

CAPE TOWN BED AND BREAKFAST – I am not a big bed and breakfast fan – probably because I just prefer being in a hotel and not feeling like somebody’s personal guest but I do understand how sometimes a B&B can be cute and original. And yes I have stayed in “cute and original” in a room with the toilet perched up on top of a flight of stairs. I kid you not. The room had a bathroom en suite but when you entered the bathroom you had the bath on one side and then a steep flight of stairs on top of which was perched the toilet. Gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “on the throne”.

By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.


  1. My husband and I drove up to Edmonton for a family function and checked into a lovely hotel on Whyte Ave. We put our keys into the room, opened the door and were surprised to see the room filled with “congratulations on your wedding” banners and balloons, along with some very “interesting” toy items. Of course we went back downstairs asking for another room… suggesting one a few rooms away from the one we suspected would be a wee bit noisy that night. 😉


  2. This is 100% true in every detail!
    Many years ago I booked into an eco-resort in Costa Rica.
    The room was clean and the place was beautiful. The bathroom in particular had gleaming white tiles, white shower curtain, etc.
    I went to bed, sleeping under a window covered with slatted window. Gentle tropical breezes and the sound of crickets in the trees lulled me to sleep.
    I was woken suddenly when something landed beside my head on the pillow. I kid you not.
    Whatever it was, it was about the size of a small house cat (I had one that weighed eight pounds and the thud on the pillow sounded similar to when my cat jumped on my pillow).
    Of course, I turned on the light and looked around the room. I couldn’t see a thing, so decided I must have been dreaming and went back to sleep.
    But every time I turned off the light, I heard scurrying. I wasn’t crazy, was I?
    I tried to peer into the darkness to see if there really was something in the room with me.
    Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw an animal, highlighted against the white tile, run along the shower curtain in the bathroom. There were rats in my room! Not just one.
    Well, there was no getting back to sleep by then, so I got up, packed my suitcase, and went for a walk in the forest (saw a lovely LONG green snake). When I finally communicated with the front desk about the “rotta” in my room, they moved me down the hall to another room. I told myself that there wouldn’t be rats in the second room – and convinced myself well enough that I could sleep there for the next two nights before gladly checking out.
    Later on, when telling my older brother about this (he lived in Costa Rica at the time), he put things in perspective. When I told him about the rats, he said, “You know what comes with rats, don’t you?”
    Thinking he was going to say fleas, etc., I wasn’t prepared for his answer. He said, where there are rats, there are snakes.
    Good grief.


    1. Oh my goodness Bonnie – what a tale. I was gripped, line by line. How awful. I think I am going to be very careful of anything described as “eco”. Glad you survived and thank you for sharing!


  3. The question always is, does your accommodation meet your expectations but be realistic and do your due diligence. We’ve had a couple of experiences of dirty rooms and corridors that don’t show up on their web pages. I won’t bore you with the bad examples but we’ve also been pleasantly surprised. I often wonder when we check in, when they last cleaned the duvet or blankets. The sheets and pillow cases look fine but…? I hope that the COVID cleaning protocols result in better experiences. So far, they seem to have.
    Have you seen the PBS show, ‘Death in Paradise’ filmed in Guadeloupe? A chameleon Harry features when the star detective from UK Is replaced and the new UK detective reacts negatively to Harry in his shack.
    Growing up in Australia, I got used to spiders, flies, mosquitoes, many varieties of lizards, snails (I don’t eat escargot) and, on hikes, snakes.


    1. Hugh you are right! I never thought about the cleaning of the actual duvets but that is a really good point. I have not seen the show Death in Paradise but am now definitely going to look it up. I am right with you on not eating escargot. Also grew up with too many snails ( in Cornwall UK) 🙂


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s