Early on while backpacking through India and SouthEast Asia, my wife Carrie and I realized that there really wasn’t that much of a difference between a $3 hotel room and a $13 hotel room.


A guesthouse room at the Elvis Guesthouse in Varanasi, India
A guesthouse room at the Elvis Guesthouse in Varanasi, India


A guesthouse room in the Healy Tourist Inn - Dambula, Sri Lanka
SRI LANKA – 600 Rupees ($4) – Healey Tourist Inn, Dambula

Paying $3 vs $8 for a Hotel/Guesthouse Room

Sure, the more expensive hotel room might have a Western toilet in the room instead of a shared squatty potty, but neither had a comfortable bed or was especially pleasant to be in.

A guesthouse bed in the Healy Tourist Inn - Dambula, Sri Lanka
SRI LANKA – 600 Rupees ($4) – Healey Tourist Inn, Dambula… The bed and pillows were made of straw

For instance, the above room in Dambula, Sri Lanka, featured the gem-of-a-mattress  you see to your right. Filled entirely with hay and stray, it was about as comfortable to sleep on as you would imagine.

Yet we stayed there, because it was the best hotel room we came across. I don’t even want to think about what may or may not have been living inside that bale of hay. Sometimes it would poke through while laying on it, others it would just exist like a bed of cement. Needless to say, we were thrilled to get out of there first thing the next morning.

Another prime example of an awful bed can be seen in the below photograph taken in Ubud, Bali. For $8, we got what the hotel owner referred to as a “large bed.”


Twin beds at the Aya Bungalow in Ubud
BALI – 80,000 Real ($8) – Ayu Bungalow, Ubud

Beware of the Bed Crack

Upon closer inspection (aka, laying down on it), we quickly realized that it was made up of two twin beds pushed next to each other, alongside an even smaller third mattress and covered with a single sheet. And, because it’s what you do when backpacking, we stayed there for four days.

Sometimes the guesthouse rooms are big…with uncomfortable beds…

And other times times they are barely big enough to move around…with the same uncomfortable beds.


A guesthouse room in Chennai, India
INDIA -a guesthouse room in Chennai, India


Our teeny hotel in Bombay was just 4 wood dividing walls from the room next door with no ceiling and a fan above ($10 per night)
INDIA – 500rs ($10) Bombay – India Guest House

$10 = Four Thin Walls and No Ceiling

The most absurd part about the room above was that, because it was in Mumbai, India,  it was our most expensive room to date at a whopping $10. No real walls: just four thin pieces of balsa wood separating us from the room next door and a rickety fan perilously spinning from a communal ceiling.


Sleeping quarters at Sadhana Forest in Auroville, India
Sleeping quarters at Sadhana Forest in Auroville, India

So Why Do We Stay in these Hotels/Guesthouses?

The room above was in Sadhana Forest: an organic commune dedicated to reforestation in India. It was one of our favorite stops on the entire 9 month backpacking adventure…but the bed sure wasn’t comfortable.

Now keep in mind, Carrie and I willingly chose to stay at these places. Partly because we were on a budget, but also because they provided us with some of our most memorable experiences. These were the places that we got to meet the locals and learn about all the amazing places to visit from our fellow travelers.

Quite often, there was an idyllic scene just outside the door and had we not stayed in these budget guesthouses we never would have had the chance to explore the area. Take the below bungalow. While teeny, it also literally was less than a minute from the white sands of the Arabian Sea in Goa, India.


Costello's Cabanas - a guesthouse in Benalum, Goa, India
INDIA – 200 Rupees ($4) – Costello’s Cabanas, Benalum, Goa

The Worst Place I’ve Ever Stayed… for Five Nights!

Of course, from time to time we found ourselves in an absolute hellhole like the Overstay: a whorehouse turned guesthouse in Bangkok. It was during Songkran – the Thai New Year – and Carrie and I found ourselves with little other option than to spend five nights there after we met some amazing new friends.

It’s amazing what one puts up with just to make it easy to hang out with people. (and no, the final photo below was not our room, but it was where dozens of other traveler’s slept in the Overstay).


Sleeping on the floor at the Overstay Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand
The floor was a popular sleeping spot at The Overstay in Bangkok during Thai New Year, though we had a “room”

Here are a bunch of absurd stories from guesthouses around the world:

. . .

OK, I’m done now. For the comments section…what is the most absurd place you have ever stayed and why? Discuss 🙂