No-Star Hotels Have Their Own Special Charm

The Joys of Budget Travel
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Hiltons and Sheratons may offer travelers free shower caps and enough towels to mop up a small oil spill, but try asking at the reception desk for a room with a squat toilet, ripped mosquito netting, and a shower with less water pressure than a turkey baster.

These are the perks of many no-star accommodations—lodgings that may not have exactly what you're looking for, or even close, but with prices you can't beat, they're perhaps the quickest way to find a little adventure on the road.

Standards vary at the shoestring level. Some hostels are surprisingly clean and comfortable. Some change the sheets about as often as you replace your car's fan belt, and others prefer to let you try and spot Elvis in the stained mattress. After spending the better part of six years in these backpacker refuges, there are a few I can't seem to forget.

Night in Nepal
I spent three days at the Paradise Guest House ($4) in the Annapurna Base Camp in the Himalayas waiting for the clouds to clear so I could get a look at the 20,000-foot peaks stretching in every direction. Also waiting were about 12 other trekkers from around the world, each of us passing the day in our sleeping bags eating yak-cheese pizza. (I never quite figured out if the name was derived from the animal that produced the milk for the pizza, or a post-dining experience.)

I recall the stuff was tough to digest because the temperature was roughly zero degrees Kelvin—although the rats that scurried around my room at night didn't seem to mind. There was no Elvis stain on this mattress, but there was an Elvis-size lump inside. Eventually, there was a break in the clouds and we all grabbed our cameras, sprinted outside, and immediately collapsed from lack of oxygen.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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