The Sous Bois hostel in Montreal is quite a lively place. In some ways, it is an unusually good establishment. The atmosphere is positive, there is free wireless internet, the location is good, and the facilities are fairly well maintained. One nice touch is providing a big bowl of earplugs (a necessity in almost any hostel).
The biggest problem with the Sous Bois, in my experience, is the bedding. The bunks consist of squeaky air mattresses and the sheets they provide are awfully scanty for Montreal in winter. It is a good thing I ended up sleeping in my shoes, trousers, and jacket, since I woke up with my hands and ankles covered in small, itchy insect bites. All told, I have about 100 of them, after two nights in the place. Lots of other ex-guests mention the bugs, which demonstrates the importance of researching low-cost accommodations, rather than choosing one that appears high on Google and has a nice webpage. The lack of secure storage facilities is also a problem.
This definitely wasn’t the worst hostel I have stayed in (the Hosteling International places across from St. Mark’s Square in Venice and on Amsterdam Avenue in New York City share that dishonour), but it isn’t one I would be quick to stay in again.
[Update: 29 October 2007] This afternoon I spoke with Fred Bouchard, a manager at the Sous Bois Hostel. He seemed suspiciously familiar with bedbugs: asking me whether the bites were clustered in lines (as bedbug bites are) and then telling me that the hostel policy was to refund the cost of your stay (within two weeks) and to pay for any bite-related medications prescribed by a doctor. He told me to see a doctor immediately and that I need to either immerse everything I had with me in boiling water or put it through the dryer on high for at least half an hour. Once it gets cold enough, I will freeze the suit-carrying luggage that is presently in garbage bag quarantine for at least three days.
It seems pretty clear that this hostel is well aware of their infestation. That probably explains the minimal sheets and the air mattresses, as well as the ease with which the staff recall their bedbug policies. Once I find the right phone number within the City of Montreal bureaucracy, I will file a report with the public health authorities. In some cases, bedbugs can carry hepatitis; also, infestations that people bring home could easily cost thousands of dollars to clear up. As such, it seems reasonable that the city authorities would be concerned that this place is still operating in such a dodgy manner.
[Update: 31 October 2007] The hostel refunded me for my stay. One person contacted me through one of the hosteling webpages to tell me that they gave her a refund too, after she found their non-paying guests snacking on her.