A Hostel’s False Advertising and a Surprising Finish

Posted By on Sep 5, 2011 in Asia, Reviews | 5 comments

Disclaimer: It is not often that I start a post with a disclaimer, but I feel like this one deserves it.  My original intent was to have this be a review post for a poor guest house experience I had at the Bun Kao Guest House in Cambodia.  It was so full of false advertising through booking engine Hostelworld that I complained to the site directly, and just noticed that the advertising on the site has changed entirely reflective of my complaints. All is well for future travelers.

My stay at the Bun Kao Guest House in Siem Reap, Cambodia started off quite fantastic.  Wonderful reviews on Hostelworld had it as one of the best rated dorms I have ever booked and the price of about $3.50 per night could not be beat (Bun Kao listing is located here).  But as the days went by, my patience wore thinner and thinner with the staff that ended only wondering how the review got so high in the first place.

The dorm room itself was modest but started off well with most everything you could ask for: cheap, clean enough, free internet, AC, and hot water.  The only real downside is that the guest house is located quite far (~10 minutes walking) from the main part of town, but the room itself made up for it.  By the 2nd morning of my stay the nickle and diming by the staff began.

I would like to think of myself as not being a needy traveler.  I see others who complain over the littlest things and hope that I will never become something like that, but there are a few things that I expect when booking a room.  The biggest expectation is that it includes what is described.  This is especially true with dorm rooms as I specifically seek out certain amenities to have during the booking process. Sadly, Bun Kao Guest House seemed to think dorms are an exception to their advertising at every turn.

When looking at the Hostelworld page at the time of booking, certain amenities are promised for all rooms.  Free breakfast and air-conditioning were two of them.  On the second morning of my stay I decided to have breakfast at the guest house and was told that I’d have to purchase from the menu as it was not free for the “cheap” dorm.  Considering the cost of breakfast + dorm room is more expensive than some of the prices of the private rooms, my frustration began.  It didn’t hurt either that an hour earlier (8:30 in the morning mind you) two employees came in to clean the room and had a very loud conversation while the entire room was trying to sleep.

Putting that aside, I enjoyed my day all the same and had no issues the rest of the afternoon.  By the third morning my real frustration came in when an employee brought a new person into the dorm room to show them around.  Angrily, he looked at me and asked if I was the one that turned the A/C on.  I replied yes and he proceeded to not only turn it off, but completely disable it and took the remote control out of the room.   Questioning him, he replied that the A/C is not free even though it had been on the previous 3 days.

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Going to a manager at the front desk to complain, I was told the same, and that it is only free if the entire room was full.  Reiterating that Hostelworld states “air-conditioning” as being included, I was brushed off under the statement that someone forgot to turn it off when the room emptied.  The ironic part of the entire situation was that on my first day in the room, I asked the very same person how to turn the A/C on, and he happily assisted me in cooling the room down.  It was only occupied by 4 people and not full for at least 24 hours prior.

But, a little vengeance was mine, as the first rude employee turned around and asked to be my tuk-tuk driver for the day.  My reply, naturally, was “No, I’m not giving you any of my money” and walked off with a smirk.  My two feet can get me around just fine thanks.

The list of other “free” experiences offered at the hostel were also non-existant, such as a free bottle of water at check in and a free bike around town (which is actually $2/day).  Normally these would not bother me, as I could often careless about the extra amenities, but when items that I was under the assumption of getting included with my room are not offered, and the cost difference is more than the base price of a private room that does include the amenities, I get very angry even at the most basic of inclusions.
Is it wrong to charge for extras in a dorm room?  No, but advertising without including that you do is, and Bun Kao Guest House in Siem Reap, Cambodia was one of the worst offenders.  So after staying at the hostel I sent Hostelworld a very long email in regards to the hotel’s advertising practices and pointed out such concerns and only got a response of  something along the lines of “Thank you, we will get in contact with the hostel to discuss” and I thought it’d be the end of it. 

Since my stay in Cambodia was several months ago, I went on for a long time not even thinking about it until this post.  With a quick check of Hostelworld’s page for Bun Kao, I noticed something surprising, everything is fixed!  The rooms are properly listed for which ones provide free A/C and which ones do not, and it even specifically says what rooms get breakfast included. 

I must tip my hat to Hostelworld for fixing a problematic issue brought up by one random traveler’s angry email.  While I will not stay at the hostel personally if I ever return to Cambodia again, the only thing I have left to wonder is for such a small price difference ($2/night) and substantially more amentities offered, why would anyone want to stay in the dorm room?

Have you ever stayed at a hostel that was distinctively false advertising in what was offered?  What did you do about it?  Please help out our readers so they do not mistakenly book at a poor hostel and get ripped off after arriving!


Jeremy founded Living the Dream in 2008 to chronicle his long-term trip around Asia. Since then he has been on two long-term trips, visited 67 countries, and is just getting started. With a love of food and adventure, he can be found traveling the world with his wife Angie.

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  1. I had a small problem with Generator Hostel in Berlin. They said breakfast was included but when we came they said we need to pay. I asked why and they asked if I had received a booking confirmation email from them. I said no, I printed my reservation from Hostelworld. They said that it was a server problem then (their problem, if you ask me) and that the email they would have sent me would have told about paid breakfast. It was a few EUR but the initial reputation for the place was spoiled.

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  2. Hi Anonymous – I’ve had much better service at places that are less than $5 a night than I have had at places that are $100+. The cost has nothing to do with it in my mind. The point is how the hostel advertises their service. I booked under the assumptions everything would be included in the price I paid, and it was not. If the hostel is concerned about money it should either be listed as extra or they should raise their rate to cover it. If the hostel did advertised that they did not include these features, I would not have booked with them and paid more to go somewhere else. It is as simple as that.

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  3. Your paying $3.50 a night! Im not really sure how you expect excellent service for that??

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  4. I’m guessing this room without windows did not have a ceiling fan or AC either huh? Sounds terrifying!

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  5. Ooh. We had a situation like that in Xela, Guatemala. Not to that degree but when we asked about our free breakfast we were looked at like we were crazy. Only one shower had hot water (and advertised as so) and not for very long.

    We were also stuck in the only room without windows. Nearly died.

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