Central AmericaGuatemalaTravel Stories

The Hostel from Hell in Antigua, Guatemala

hostels in antigua guatemala

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Hostels have typically been good to me. From the time I stayed with a fellow au pair in a hastily selected hostel in Madrid (that was booked over the phone by her host mum, as our Spanish wasn’t that great back then), to the time I paid next to nothing for a bed in a pretty shoddy but not-really-that-bad room in Palenque, I’ve had pretty decent luck even when my hostel making decisions looked objectively poor. In fact, I’d never really had any kind of problem with booking cheap(ish) hostels, until I went to Antigua, Guatemala (and Lake Atitlan, but that’s a post for another day). So, here’s my story of theft, huskies and warring Russians in Central America’s current colonial darling, Guatemala.

hostels in antigua guatemala

My trip had got off to a shaky start and, after the threat of a potential reroute to El Salvador (yes, the plane was potentially going to land in a completely different country), I thought things might start looking up once I hit up my hostel and could get to work on the important task of Looking Busy and Taking Photos in Antigua, Guatemala. How wrong I was.

This place was genuinely the worst place I’ve ever stayed in my life, inhabited by dreadlocked, drugged up travellers and not one, not two, but three huskies. (OK, they were pretty cute, but it was less than practical.) Did I mention the owners slept on a mattress behind the desk and the sofa respectively, and constantly argued in Russian? Niet cool, guys, niet cool.

Even so, I thought things were salvageable at this hot mess hostel when I was shown to my room, given that there was at least a fan, a locker and no one else scheduled to be staying there. I can make the best of this, I thought, stashing my travel pouch, laptop and phone in the locker, sealing the window to hold off the stink of the place and turning the fan on full blast.


There’s nothing that puts a dampener on a day that already started with getting an electric shock in the lukewarm shower (how? I don’t know, nor do I care to find out) than getting to your room and finding that 400Q have been stolen from your locked locker.

hostels in antigua guatemala

After counting, and counting and counting some more, I was certain my money had gone, so I did what anyone would do and I huffed my way down to reception, only marginally tearfully and minorly freaking out, to explain what had happened and demand a solution. Her reaction? ‘Oh, isn’t that a mystery.’

Reader, mystery it was not.

As it turns out, there was a known criminal staying (nay, working) at the hostel, one who everyone had their eye on as he’d just been released from prison for theft two days prior and had been previously caught red handed stealing from guests’ padlocked lockers. Did I mention that he’d also been deported back to his native Nicaragua for stealing (and promptly hopped back across the border again into Guatemala) and that the hostel owners had a restraining order on him?

In fact, it was only when an American couple who’d been staying there long term told me all of the above, that the owner changed her tune and immediately confirmed that that it was him who took the money. ‘Report him to the police!’ she cried, allowing him to sit behind the desk with her all day, maintaining idle chitchat and barely batting an eyelid as he made lunch and watched TV. Meanwhile, I sat stewing in anger waiting for my money to be returned.

(You literally can’t make this shit up. Or at least I can’t anyway, I’ve never been a great fiction writer.)

hostels in antigua guatemala

Anyway, bolstered by the fact I now knew who the culprit was, I demanded my money back and even went with the guy to the bank (holding his passport as collateral. After all, you can’t really trust a thief, can you?). In the end, and shockingly enough, it turns out he didn’t have the money to pay me back. So, he called in a loan shark and I agreed to wait until 6pm to get my money back. 5pm rolls around and, lo and behold, I still don’t have my money and I’m simmering in a self-brewed pot of rage, annoyance and get-me-the-fuck-out-of-here-ness.

Naturally, I decide to go and talk to the American couple, my principal allies in the situation, and tell them I’m not paying for the night I stayed and that I’ll be leaving as soon as I have my money. Then I realised they were high on ket (yeah, the ill-advised drug taken by every British 13-year-old because they can’t afford coke yet). It was all starting to feel a bit too surreal, even for me, I’ll be honest. So, I noped the fuck out, demanded the money from the hostel owner and got the hell out of there to an actual decent hostel.

The kicker? I told them in no uncertain terms on my way out that they needed to up the security, change the locks and get rid of the low life that was stealing from their guests (and breaking expensive padlocks, might I add). It was then that the warring Russians joined forces and had the cheek to tell me that, hey, everyone complains about something and they’ll never be able to please everyone. Yes, moaning about an overly soft pillow is the same about incredibly lax security and an absolute lack of business acumen, common decency and consideration, sure.

hostels in antigua guatemala

I WISH my hostel room had looked something like this

Overall though, I think it was the mixed bag of weirdos that I was surrounded by in that hostel that shocked me more than the theft itself. For a start, when it first happened, everyone immediately knew who did it and the fact no one warned me about his previous pilfering ways baffles belief. The hostel owner was allegedly in love with the guy too and that’s why she wouldn’t chuck him out, yet she was still in a relationship with her sofa-sleeping husband and the people who helped me the most were actually off their tits on ket the whole time. It was as if Skins and Game of Thrones did a crossover episode, and based the whole thing in Guatemala. And it did not have HBO production value.

Moral of the story? Don’t stay at the cheapest accommodation on HostelWorld. There’s a reason they’re charging less than their competent competitors.


Well, if staying in the hostel of a bizarre, warring Russian couple who perpetually stink of sweat and actively allow a known thief to live in their midst sounds like your idea of a relaxing start to a Central American adventure, boy do I have the place for you!

Alternatively, you could, you know, book one of the decent hostels in Antigua. In honour of my horrendous stay, I’ve taken it upon myself to round up a few tried and tested accommodation suggestions based on 1) the lovely, quiet, free-coffee-in-the-morning providing hostel I switched to and 2) all the other traveller recommendations I was given when I bitched online about my shitty experience.


This was somewhat off the main drag, but all the better for it, although the only downside is that you wouldn’t want to walk back there alone at night. That pretty much sums up all of Antigua after hours though, and isn’t a reflection on the location of this hostel at all. Why should you stay here? Well, it’s theft free, the terrace has amazing views and hammocks, the staff are friendly and the beds are comfy. Plus, it’s 100% budget friendly and you get free coffee and access to a (clean) kitchen.

If you want to stay here, you can book a bed through Booking.com.

hostels in antigua guatemala

The view from Hostel Villa Esthela’s rooftop


According to the recommender of Matiox Hostel in Antigua, Guatemala (Marlena of Top Knot Travel), its clean and fun and has huge lockers. Win, win, win.


A friend of a friend recommendation, this hostel was described to Rhiannon of Wales To Wherever as quiet and safe, if a little cold at night.

If you want to stay here, you can book a bed through Booking.com.


Recommended to me by Megan of Megan Seamans, she loved this hostel in Antigua. And, after looking it up online, I kind of wished I’d stayed there too.

If you want to stay here, you can book a bed through Booking.com.

Alternatively, if this story hasn’t put you off hostels for life, then check out the Antigua offerings on Airbnb instead.

What has been your weirdest and worst hostel experience? Tell me in the comments!

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