I’ve stayed at a lot of hotels in the last 20 years. And having travelled across more than 25 countries for business and pleasure, I’ve laid my head down in everything from five star to no star… and what I’ve found they all have in common, to varying degrees, is that they are dirty. And no, I’m not talking about the pay for porn channels – although that has contributed to some of the third-party filth I have experienced.
So in addition to the tips I provided back in Fly By, I thought it was only fair to share what I’ve learnt about surviving a hotel stay… but be warned, it’s not pretty.
First of all there are some simple no-go areas in a hotel:
1. Top of the list is the spa (whether in your room or in the gymnasium). Think human bodies and warm water under pressure, being pumped around and around… and what you’ve got is the makings of DNA soup. And at least 7 orifices… sorry, I had to go there.
2. The gymnasium change-room. unless you are wearing flip-flops or some sort of foot protection at all times, and using all your own products, including brushes and combs.
3. The remote control. Seriously, don’t go there. At least not without prior sterilisation or wearing gloves. Aside from nose-pickers and bum scratchers, there’s that hotel porn again. Unfortunately, the same goes for the in-room phone. Sure it’s just been used for phone calls, but the most it’s probably ever received since installation is the occasional wipe over as the maid passes by the bedside table. Of course, you’re going to need to use both at some stage, so grab those handy wipes you’ve been carting around and give them a
once… twice over.
Then there are a few things you want to check – before you unpack, or even bring your suitcase past the door, and make yourself at home:
1. Under furniture. I know this advice seems ludicrous, but trust me on this. I’ve stayed at a five star hotel and while retrieving something I dropped happened to notice a face washer under the bed. Used. And not for face washing.
2. The bed. As in the linen and the pillows. You are looking for hairs – of any description – and creases that indicate someone slept there recently (like the previous guest…). Make sure you check the pillow cases, closely. Sheets are typically changed – not so pillow cases. And given how much sex most hotel beds have seen, the very least you want on that bed is clean linen.
3. Non-paying guests. While you are by the bed, look for anything that jumps… OK you can’t actually spot the bedbugs cartwheeling around and making themselves at home, but look around the edges of the bed, the floor, the headboard and the mattress for telltale signs that you are not the only tenant – i.e. bed bug pooh… it will resemble small brown smears. Which, by the way, is your blood pooped back out. (I warned you it wasn’t pretty.) If you are heading to the US / UK or Australia there are actually bedbug registries that you can check before making your booking. This, by the way, is why your bag is still by the door still. Research has found that the easiest way for bedbugs to migrate is by hitching a lift on your luggage.
And finally, here are my tips for dealing with the unseen, but inevitable:
1. The flooring. I live in a shoes-off house, but unfortunately it’s not common practise. So when I stay at hotels, my shoes or a pair of socks stay on my feet. It’s up to you and the star rating as to whether you also wear flip-flops in the shower. Maids routinely admit to only giving them a wipe down, not a proper scrub.
2. Glasses and crockery. I’ve walked in on more than a few maids giving these a quick rinse in the bathroom sink, using the same cloth they have been using to either polish furniture or clean the toilet. I’m a big fan of taking the few minutes required to boil the kettle and scorch the hell out of that glassware and crockery.
3. Light switches and door knobs. Used all the time, rarely cleaned. At the very least I always give the switches by the bed a quick wipe with those antibacterial wet wipes I’ve been carting around for surviving public toilets (which frankly, is a whole post in itself).
4. The ice bucket. Trust me, that puppy has not just been used for ice. I’ve heard stories from friends in the industry of it being used for everything from poonamis to vomit.
5. Manners. Let’s talk about the disgruntled maid… despite the dirt described above, these are some of the hardest working, underpaid staff on earth. It’s in your best interest to avoid being rude to them – this includes treating your room like a pig sty and then expecting them to be able to turn around the daily service in 15 minutes… without using your toothbrush to clean the toilet.
At the end of my stay, not matter where I stay, I’m a big fan of customer feedback forms. I like to take the opportunity to let hotels know not just what I was disappointed by, but also what they did right – which includes noting staff members by name that really made a difference to my stay. In my opinion, most hotels value their star rating… and when they don’t (evident by their response to a request to have my mouldy sheets replaced with new ones, for instance), I go somewhere else.
I’m also a big fan of tripadvisor (not an endorsed comment btw) – if a hotel has more than five negative comments, I’m unlikely to stay there. Word of mouth is powerful tool – which means I also use it judiciously. So to end, here are a few of my favourite hotels from across the globe:
- The Fairmont Banff Springs in Canada – I have friends who go back year after year, with good reason.
- The QT in Canberra. This is a relatively new hotel and quite frankly it’s a relief to have somewhere decent to stay in Canberra.
- The Solare range in Japan. This chain has great budget level hotels across Japan (they have high end versions too) that are always clean, if basic.
- I love the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo, although I might be biased owing to their lychee martinis. Nonetheless, the attention to detail in the rooms is amazing – whether you are on a package or top end.
- The Marriott Renaissance in Midtown New York City. They were brilliant when I had my wallet stolen (i.e. they didn’t just turf me out of the street) and even shouted me a complimentary apple martini to help me calm down. My room was also beautifully serviced every day, even when all I could leave was the small change the thief hadn’t stolen from my pocket.
- Mövenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach Phuket – this hotel is a delight. Perfect for families, singles or couples wanting to unwind. I stayed in a plunge pool villa… all I can say is ‘DO IT!’
- The JW Marriott Hong Kong. Just come out of a devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear melt-down? Then this is the place to go… with friends, for shopping, for drinks, for a good night sleep in a clean room with a great view.
I’d love to hear about your favourite hotels or tips for surviving the filth xxx