What to do when you end up in a bad hotel

Leggi in Italiano 

Well, I’ve got quite a number of stories to tell you: cockroaches in the bathroom (London, April 2016), dirty rooms beyond human tolerance (Belgrade 2013 and Paris 2009), a “creative design” room, the kind with no shower in the bathroom but with bathroom in the shower (Sofia, fall 2015), or finding a double bed when you asked for two single beds, getting a room at the thousandth floor where there’s no elevator and so on.

I acted and reacted differently in every circumstance and after a few years’ experience I can say I finally know how to behave when it comes to the shortcomings in the hotels or B&Bs I take shelter in.

che cosa fare quando ci si trova in un pessimo hotel

I’ve often given in to the assumption that if you choose a low-cost solution you need to keep low expectations and be happy with what you get, remembering to keep your mouth shut in case of problems, but I was wrong: there are actually some essential milestones in hotel accommodation (and in the general industry) that every facility has to guarantee, regardless of the price.

Among these, I count basic cleaning and personal hygiene standards, kindness, honesty, or else things relating to the dignity of the individual and of the traveller as well as to the company ethics implemented by those who manage any kind of company, be it even a van by the street selling junk food.

Let’s see how you can behave and what you can do before you start screaming and burst into tears, threatening the life of the hotel owners.

#1 – Measure the extent of the problem against your viewpoint

Hotel Hampton - Varsavia

How badly is the problem going to affect your stay? If the answer is “not that much” and by acting in one of the ways I’m about to list you risk spoiling your trip and a stay that could, after all, be a positive one, don’t be too hard.

Let me give you an example to be more clear. When I went to Sofia with Nadia, my red-headed friend, we ended up in a pretty nice hotel, very clean and with extremely kind staff. Our room was really cheap, but it was ok.

Just a little problem: the small bathroom. The shower was right in the middle so you had to wash yourself in the middle of the bathroom (yes, you heard me, no shower stall, no curtain).

Before asking for a room change, I tried it out and realized no water came out of the bathroom, the shower head was well adjustable and allowed us not to wet the toilet and the sink, the floor was made of a specific material that immediately absorbs water, so we could both use the bathroom soon after the other one had taken a shower.

We laughed at it and kept the problem. (we stayed at the Cheap Hotel in Sofia)

The London case is instead different, where my cousin Rossella found a dead cockroach in the shower at six in the morning.  We complained about it…only after 8 though, because people sleep at six (“rest in peace cockroach, your corpse is gonna be here even in two hours”, the bold lass must have thought.

#2 – Complain kindly (we all make mistakes)

cosa fare in un pessimo hotell

Let’s stick to the cockroach example (by the way, the insect wasn’t actually dead, but we found it out only when we removed the corpse).

I could have yelled at them, being mad and speaking loudly so that even the other customers of the London Premier Kensington would know there was a cockroach in my shower stall (yes, I often have problems with shower stalls).  Yet, I didn’t do it because I know we all work and often work isn’t easy for everybody. And because I know well that the cockroach invasion often depends on the towns and their pest control schedules, more than on how clean the place is.

I waited for my turn and whispered to the receptionist that there was a “guest” in my shower (quoting the word “guest” with the fingers), asking for someone to come and remove it.

A guy stepped in but immediately ran away screaming hysterically after seeing the insect. Then a lady came in, who started screaming too, but she was the cleaning lady and she had to do her job, no matter how disgusting it was.

The man at the reception thanked me a thousand times for my discrete reaction. Well, I would have appreciated more both his apologies and thanks had he offered me a discount on one of the nights spent there, but in London hotels are quite stingy, especially if you book through Booking. Note: the room was also cramped and had mould on the walls, so we would have been more than justified in asking to be moved to another room or passing to reaction #3.

#3 – Call for assistance 

In the event your problem is more serious and your reservation was made through an agency or offer site like booking.com, trivago etc., you can turn to them with a call: they are really serious at booking in this regard.

If you book a room but once there you get another one you don’t like or that simply isn’t good, call booking and they’ll take care of it by talking to the hotel. Remember to write down the assistance phone number and bring it always with you.

It goes without saying that you should also print and keep with you the booking including all your room details: that’s the proof that counts, no matter how much you paid for the room, be it half price or a sixth of the cost.

#4 – Write a negative feedback and take pictures 

girl with a map and a mobile

Never underestimate your power as a

– consumer

– communicator on social media,

– super Sayan.

Every manager, even those with a minimum IQ, will realize you use instruments like tripadvisor (especially if you booked your offer online) and know how to write a review.

They know you have your own social channels and that every crack in the wall risks being posted on your Facebook page or Instagram profile.

If they won’t deal with the issue nor solve your problem, don’t hesitate to be childish and say: “I’ll write about this on booking/tripadvisor/facebook etc.”.

And if you are truly unhappy with your stay, do it for real and write your review. The web isn’t always a democratic weapon as we might think, but it can be somehow useful: in this case, it can be used to warn other travellers and push the owners of the facilities to improve and work better.

Besides, if you have a blog you can take your “revenge” by writing articles like this, on the 5 worst hotels of my life (the Kensington Premier is missing, because I hadn’t been there yet).

#5 – Have a laugh

It’s always wise not to lose touch with what’s really important and measure the extent of a problem when you have one. A trip is a wonderful thing and wonderful things can be rare. What is a cockroach compared to serious problems in life?

By the way, you gotta know how to keep negative experiences in the list of things that will make your story funnier once back, both for you listeners and for you as a narrator.

About that knack for serendipity, read also 7 things that can make your travel (and your life) a better place.


  • Dreammerin

    #5 have a laugh : definitely !! I can remember one hostel (last year) – it wasn’t nice experience…However, I will never forget this place ;-(

  • Annie B

    Awesome post as we always only hear about the positive experiences and the good side of the hotel industry. Just be polite and mature about your complaint and go from there.

  • Brian

    I only saw a cockroach once (in Kuta, Bali). I immediately checked out and went to another hotel. My thought was that I would not let that ruin the rest of my trip.

  • Ali Rost

    Oh my goodness .. who can’t relate to this post! I remember booking an expensive hotel for a Mexico getaway .. getting there and telling my husband “If there isn’t another hotel we can stay in we’ll go back home” Luckily we found another and had a great trip!

  • Elizabeth O.

    If we’re going to stay in budget hotels then we should also budget our complains, at least that’s how I think whenever I travel. It’s never easy when you’re expecting everything to be perfect. This post is a must read for all travelers.

  • Ana De- Jesus

    I think that was very mature of you to handle the insect situation so well as for me it might have been a different reaction all together. They definitely should have given you a discount!

  • Kylie

    Great post idea, i remember when we went to San Fransisco , we are from the UK, and I was so excited thinking our hotel was going to be this cute little quaint hotel, when we arrived it was awful! It look nothing like the pictures on the website and they had bedbugs. It ruined the trip a little bit.

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