When is an en suite not a luxury?

Q. When is an en suite not a luxury?

A. When it’s in a backpackers dormitory.

You wouldn’t think that there would ever be a situation where having an en suite is a bad thing, but since I’ve started travelling, I’ve discovered that backpacker dormitories with en suite bathrooms are one of my least favourite things.

Most backpacker hostels have communal bathrooms, which means you have to pad down a corridor (remembering to take your room key with you so that you don’t get locked out) where you will be able to access several shower cubicles, toilet cubicles and a row of basins. This works well. Separate cubicles for separate things mean that lots of people can shower, brush their teeth and use the toilet and you very rarely find yourself having to queue, but if there was a queue you could probably find a free shower or toilet on the corridor above or below.

But some backpacking hostels like to advertise “en suite bathrooms” as if it is something to be proud of. It really isn’t.

What this means, is that you’re sharing a bedroom with five, six or seven strangers, and you’ve got one bathroom between you. If one person from your room is using the shower, then nobody else in your room can have any access to any bathroom facilities – unless you’ve got to know your new room mates really well!

You certainly feel like you know your new room mates better than you should when the odour of their latest bowel movement follows them out of the door and wafts around the room as you’re trying to settle down and go to sleep.

And because your room mates are strangers, you can’t guess what their early morning movements might be, or sit down and hatch some sort of bathroom rota like you might if you were living in a house-share. Which means if you’re getting up early to catch a bus the next day, you end up setting your alarm for half an hour earlier than you actually need to, just to factor in the possibility that you might have to wait for someone else to shower before you do.

Last week just as I was waking up and registering that everyone else was still asleep and the bathroom was all mine, I clearly didn’t move fast enough, because just as I was making my elegant descent from the top bunk, another girl hopped out of bed, gave me a triumphant smirk and sauntered into the before me. Then after a few minutes, she stuck her head out and summoned her friend to come into the bathroom with her. Then they proceeded to spend the next twenty minutes either being in the bathroom together, or making sure that one of them was in there “saving” it so that I couldn’t go in until they had finished. Consequently I did not smell as fragrant as I would have liked for my two hour coach journey to Picton. But what can you do?


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