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How to Survive a Nasty Hostel Shower on your Backpacking Europe Adventure


Body wash in one hand, loofah in the other, I pushed forward on the door to my hostel's bathroom only to be hit by an odorous wall of mildew that had me jumping back into the hallway.  I was staying in Rome, but this was no Roman bath. There is no way I'm coming out cleaner than I am going in, I thought.

Though many hostels in Europe do adequately tend to their restroom facilities, the Tale of the Soiled Bathroom seems to be a common one for us travelers backpacking around Europe or at least for us travelers that can only afford the cheapest accommodations, occasionally staying in a converted apartment with the word "Hostel" scribbled on a piece of construction paper stuck to the front door.

Luckily, most obstacles found within a problem bathroom can be avoided with a little bit of planning and vigilant packing.  The main trick involves maneuvering about so as not to touch anything except the door handle coming in, the water from the showerhead, and the door handle coming out.  I like to imagine I am deftly tip-toing through the laser field in Ocean's Twelve - much more adventurous and invigorating then the impending shower.

Flip-flops are your first line of defense in this mission unless, of course, you're Criss Angel and happen to harness the power of levitation.  Hover or cover, just don't let your feet touch the ground.  Foot fungus is not a friend to travelers; therefore, your footwear must stay on throughout the duration of the shower.  Yes, this means that they will get wet.  No, don't wear your nice Rainbows Sandals if you have a problem with this.

Secondly, a hanging toiletries bag is an essential element to your quest as it allows you to avoid placing your wash items on the mold-encrusted tile floor of the shower.  Shampoo goes from the bag, to the head, and back into the bag.  Flawless sanitation. 

But what to do with your towel and clothes while you bathe?  Well, if your derelict bathroom ever had towel hangers in the first place, they're definitely gone now, and there's nothing worse then scrubbing yourself to a silky shine only dry yourself off with and dress in now-soiled material.  A behind-the-door hanger is key to solving this dilemma.  These little hangers will pack easily in your backpack and make your showering experience a much more enjoyable one.  To lazy to buy a hanger?  Try tying a cable from the door handle to the sink faucet and drape your towel and clean clothes over it.  This trick obviously depends on the dynamics of your particular bathroom, but it can be done.

Congratulations!  You have successfully bathed, garbed, and are a better person (or at least better smelling) for it.  Exit your menacing lavatory of doom, immediately stick your flip-flops in a plastic bag, and don't forget to rub your hands in some anti-bacterial lotion when you shut that door.

Mission accomplished! Europe Backpacking Adventure Rescued!