The worst hostel stay ever–HI Tunis, Tunisia

Choosing to stay in a hostel when traveling can be a risky move. Sure, they’re generally less expensive but they’re also a much different type of lodging. Generally I like that sort of difference. A more social group and folks hanging out, sharing travel tales rather than holed up in their room. I had high hopes for our stay at the Hosteling International property in Tunis, Tunisia. I did some research in both guide books and online and most signs pointed towards it being a great place to stay.

They were wrong. Just plain wrong.

Coming in from Marrakesh we actually had very little trouble finding the place in the Tunis Medina using the maps in the guide book. Compared to the Marrakesh Medina that of Tunis is like the grid of mid-town Manhattan. The host at the hostel was polite and welcoming and I managed to fumble through a bit of French (along with plenty of help from my wife and her much better French) and we got our room paid for. That was about where the decent part of the stay ended.

We booked a private room for the stay so we wouldn’t have to deal with a 300 pound Finn falling out of his bed at 5am. The hostess showed us to our room. It was freezing. Pretty much zero insulation in the room and it was pretty cold outside; actually the rom was even colder than the ambient air outside. OK, well at least there were a lot of blankets available for us in the room so maybe it wouldn’t be too bad. It was.

Beyond the cold we ran into troubles with the bathrooms, too. I don’t expect luxury, but something resembling clean is generally appreciated. Apparently there were issues with the hot water in the shower, too, so that was not very useful in getting us warmed up from the chilly bedroom. And it wasn’t particularly stylish either. Yeah, it was pretty nasty.


OK, so the shower sucks. That isn’t the end of the world, right? At this point we were pretty much decided that we’d be leaving the next morning but it wasn’t certain. But the toilet is more important anyways so maybe that would be better. Maybe?


No toilet paper in the loo. Good thing we travel with our own. I can actually handle that. Lack of a toilet seat, however, is not something that I’m particularly equipped to deal with when travelling. Actually I can handle a squat toilet just fine but this wasn’t even that. Nothing to lean against nor an easy way to squat. That sealed the deal for us – we were leaving.


Out hostess was a bit surprised to see with our bags packed up the next morning. I tried to explain our departure; again my French failed me. It turns out that, “There’s no fricking toilet seat!” is not in my vocabulary.

The good news is that our next hotel, the Dar Fatma in Sidi bou Saïd, was MUCH better. More on that later. But this was what I believe is the first time I’ve ever walked out of a hotel on a pre-paid rate and been happy about the deal. I would definitely not recommend this to anyone else in the future. In the summer it probably wouldn’t be too cold but the other problems would still be there.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


    1. Given the lack of a toilet seat I actually would have preferred a proper squat toilet. Because of how it was set off the wall there was no way to lean back and support yourself while squatting in this one. It really was completely untenable. We actually left the hostel early to go to dinner the night we were there as we both wanted to use the loo and figured we may as well do it in comfort than in that bathroom.

      And, yes, the mattresses had a plastic sheeting on them which was also rather uncomfortable. Just overall a nasty experience. I’m still waiting for the review I filled in to show up on the HI website.

  1. oh man… given that I’m going to Tunis next week and staying there for 5 days, that’s sounds discouraging. I haven’t made any reservations yet but given my budget, I think it’s the obvious choice. I can’t understand how you can rent a room without offering toilet paper. I’ve been with Hihostel for many years and they always seem to have good standards

  2. Indeed, I hope that either he didn’t go or that he made it out safely. Scary scene going on there right now. Who knew that one bad review of a hostel could cause so much trouble. 🙂

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