If you have read any of my posts, you will know I am not a stranger to hostel life or even weird hostel experiences. I have stayed in 17 hostels to date and had a wide range of experiences. Some positive, some negative. This experience in Belgrade was, however, by far the most bizarre experience I have ever had. I won’t name the hostel simply because the strange events that transpired were because of the guests not because of the hostel staff.
I was so relieved to have such a great experience after such a negative one
So, I checked into the hostel. The only other guest at the time was an Indian born American guy called Anand. He was a digital nomad who had been travelling solo for three years. We were chatting about the ups and downs of long-term travel when the next guest, Al (name has been changed to protect privacy – he chose this name haha), from Israel came in. This only just flourished into greater conversations. ‘What luck I’ve had,’ I thought, after only just coming from a hostel where I was harassed by the volunteer.
I felt so grateful to meet such down to earth, relaxed guys. Shortly afterwards we were greeted by a new guest in our 4-bed dorm. A homeless Serbian man in his 50’s called Miki… I was instantly weirded out. I have never shared a hostel dorm with a homeless person before. Sure, I have come across people who aren’t really travellers, like they are expats searching for permanent accommodation in the area or something but this was very different. He smelt horrendous. Not because he hadn’t showered (he smelt horrible after showering) but because his clothes probably hadn’t been washed in a long time.
We had a great time hanging out
Anand, Al and I had dinner together. Just some fairly cheap pizza and cevapi. Anand had left his money in his luggage but he couldn’t retrieve it because the hostel receptionist locked it away somewhere and the current receptionist was just clueless. Anand told Al and me how crazy the receptionist was, that he handed him a weird brochure for some cultish group. The only card he apparently travelled with was an American Express credit card. This was when the first red flag came up. To me, it was unusual that such a successful entrepreneur and experienced traveller doesn’t even carry a card which is appropriate for travel.
I shrugged off my doubts. He seemed like a nice enough guy. Maybe I was just being prejudiced? It was fine, I covered Anand for some food, he was going to pay us back, no worries. Anand was very well off since selling a patent in the USA. He had a bunch of great stories from his travels and he was very charming – very complimentary
Anand, Al and I went shopping together. They were very helpful and encouraged me to try something different. Anand assured me that I looked fabulous and kindly reassured me when I had doubts. It was a fun experience and I left the shops with some great items. We went to a supermarket, I paid for some vodka for Anand, he was going to pay me back, no worries.
Talking to the strange homeless man
Anand very compassionately encouraged Al and me to throw our prejudices away. After all, Miki was down on his luck. So we all cautiously locked away everything worth owning in our lockers, yet we all engaged in conversation with Miki. One very unusual thing about this man was that he was very eager to talk about the bombings of 1999 in Belgrade and even the conflicts in the Balkans in the ’80s. These kinds of things are not openly discussed in Belgrade. He also talked about how he was divorced and not allowed to see his child. After discussions were over, we all went to bed except for Anand who went out partying.
The next day only got more strange
Red flag 2 – Anand starts his morning with vodka from the bottle. I was wondering how someone who was probably an alcoholic could be a successful digital nomad. The next day we wandered around the city together, it was a fairly relaxed day. This is when things started to get strange. Miki came in and told me how amazing I am and that I look like a Hollywood movie star. Okay. I decided to have a nap. Everyone left the room.
Later that afternoon, Anand and Al told me that Miki was watching me napping and that it was really creepy. We all felt pretty uncomfortable and didn’t really want to stay much longer. We were also conflicted about hostels allowing homeless guests however, we didn’t want to tell the receptionist to kick him out or even move us because we thought that would be really awkward and a bit mean.
Anand took the wheel and saved the day. He booked an Airbnb, one with plenty of space for all of us. Timing got a bit messy and he cancelled that one and we ended up staying in an Airbnb that he has stayed at before, he even knew the hosts and was friends with them. He offered to pay on our behalf. I mean he was doing so well financially, he even told me he paid the hosts a little extra, he knew how little money one of them earnt in their job and he really liked them.
And the next day even worse…
The next day, Al and I went to the Nikola Tesla museum and sat in the park and had a really awesome relaxed day. Later, when we returned to the Airbnb, Anand was nowhere to be seen and wasn’t responding to our messages. We figured he might be out with the host or someone else he knows in the area.
Anand was ‘beaten up by the cops!’
Then we received a message from Anand. He had been beaten up, by the cops! Al and I were shocked and jumped into action to help him. We organised for a taxi to pick him up from a hotel he booked, apparently to prove to the police where he was staying. He had a random host of bizarre reasons why he didn’t tell the cops where he was staying. He was staying at the Airbnb and he was also STILL checked into the hostel but he didn’t say he was in the hostel either. Red flag 3! You would think when you were being questioned by foreign police officers that you would answer this simple question. According to Anand, Serbian police officers can be quite corrupt and violent. While I have heard one strange story from a local, I had not heard about violence towards foreigners.
When he arrived there was not a single scratch or bruise on his body RED FLAG 4! I was perplexed, especially for the amount of pain he claimed to be in. Apparently, this police officer was violently hitting his knee in one spot, apparently so skillfully that we could not see any physical evidence. He was groaning and screaming, swearing in Hindi.
Al urged Anand to contact the American Embassy, which he did reluctantly. After a certain point of complaining, Al and I suggested Anand goes to a private clinic. No way in hell! He did not trust the police in Serbia, how could he trust doctors here?! I had only just visited a doctor in Belgrade and was able to recommend a clinic, he then made fun of me for visiting the doctors and asked if I had an STI or something. Such a nice guy, clearly. He said he will just fly to Switzerland or something. After all, he is so wealthy, the cost is no problem. Okay. So why not go ASAP then? I can’t remember the rationale why but he refused to go.
Things started to go downhill rapidly from there. He wanted to listen to obnoxiously loud rap music while we tried to sleep to ‘calm down’. He then woke me up at 3 am because he needed help to go to the toilet because he could hardly walk. Okay, I helped him walk there. He then asked me to go get him pizza, I politely said that I was tired. It was 3 am after all. He then went to the host’s room and banged on her door loudly and opened the door, he came back in giggling, saying he saw the host’s boyfriends ‘white ass’. It was a miracle he didn’t wake them up. I was appalled by his behaviour. He came across as drug affected to me (RED FLAG 5#) – not injured. I somehow went back to sleep.
And it just kept getting worse until Al and I abandoned him
The next morning he was more obnoxious than ever. He said ‘bitch’ to me in a really aggressive way and told me it was just an ‘American thing’ (American’s reading this – I doubted this strongly). Also, not to mention he would randomly use anti-semitic slurs towards Al. This was just an ‘American thing’ too according to Anand. Al even collected Anand’s bag from a hotel. While he was doing this Anand was shit talking about Al which made me very uncomfortable. He wanted Al and I to run around after him because he was supposedly in immense pain yet refused to get help either in Serbia or another country.
Al and I both decided to leave that day. Al quickly organised transportation and accommodation in another city. I messaged my good friend Slobo asking if I could possibly stay the night. He told me to come right over, thank God! While I was deciding where to go next Anand even invited himself along because it was my birthday and ‘I couldn’t be alone’. I wanted to get rid of this guy, so I made up some half-arsed excuse and he was clearly pissed at me after that. Al and I left in a hurry. I hadn’t actually expressed my doubts about Anand to Al yet. I didn’t want Al to think I was a shitty person for doubting his stories and injuries. Later though, I told Al by message what Anand was doing while he was sleeping and he was very shocked.
Al returned to the hostel to discover something shocking
Al was actually going to come back to Belgrade for an event. He chose to stay in the same hostel as before because as aforementioned the hostel itself was actually good. When Al talked to the receptionist she told him the Anand actually left without paying and that she has contacted some other hostels nearby and they said he did the same thing to them. Serbia was actually the first country I have been to where they didn’t take money upfront, they were very relaxed about it.
Anand was a con man
Al and I realised that Anand was a total liar and we had no idea what was even real about our time together. I realised he didn’t pay for a single thing while we were together because we paid for him, he was going to pay us back after all. He never paid us back but he did take a pair of Al’s shorts and ended up destroying them. We also realised that bag he left locked away at the hostel NEVER EXISTED after Al chatted to the hostel receptionist. I realised that he was always so interested in how long we were staying. This was probably because he wanted to know how long he would have people paying for things for him. He wasn’t interested in spending time with us, he just wanted to get us to pay for things.
He also didn’t contact us anymore after we left even after Al sent him a message of concern. I am guessing because we weren’t useful to the pathetic low-grade con man anymore. We even speculated if he even paid for the Airbnb. We guessed if he was beaten up at all perhaps it was something drug-related because he was clearly drug affected. My theory was that perhaps he concocted this police brutality story in an attempt to get Al and I feel sorry for him so that we would buy him more things. His behaviour was so bizarre and changed so rapidly that to me it could only be attributed to drugs or some type of psychotic episode.
The truth is, Al and I have no idea what really happened.
We were lucky not to have anything stolen by this guy or have anything worse happen. Anand however, is a con-artist – a low-grade one, nevertheless, a pathetic guy preying on budget travellers and essentially robbing hostels in one of the cheapest cities you can stay at in Europe.
Beware of people you meet in hostels!
The moral of the story is to beware of some people you might meet in hostels. This includes guests and workers. I saw the red flags and ignored it initially until they kept popping up like moles in that game ‘whack-a-mole’. The difficult thing with hostels is the relationships formed there are often intense and they develop quicker than they would in the real world. This is because the nature of travelling means that we come in and out of each other’s lives quickly, which can be a bit heartbreaking sometimes. But most of us want to connect regardless.
I have to admit that until things got really extreme we had absolutely no idea that the situation was dodgy. Only in hindsight, it all came together in a way that made a little more sense. When you have that first red flag don’t hang around till the fifth pops up and hits you in the face. I am sure this isn’t a unique story. Anand probably isn’t the first hostel scammer but he is the first I have come across.
I will see if I can perhaps spread the word quietly to some hostels about Anand as I do have pictures of him.
After writing everything we received more information and I was more certain about particular things
A girl on Instagram contacted Al because she noticed he had tagged Anand in a group photo. She said that he had conned her out of money. He told her that he was mugged and he convinced her to book an Airbnb for him. She was under the impression that he would pay her back eventually but he never did, unsurprisingly. They had met through Tinder but never physically met. After hearing this story, I am certain that Anand is a clear-minded con-man and he probably does all sorts of things to con people.
Do you have any stories?
Do you have any weird travel scam or hostel stories? I am curious to hear about them down below. I would like to state for the record that I don’t endorse the story of police brutality in Belgrade. There was no evidence to suggest that this ever happened, hence why I was doubtful at the very beginning.
Note: I have multiple uncensored pictures of Anand (I don’t know why he wanted to pose for group photos) and his full name which I can provide privately if it is required by an organisation, business or individual. I did a lot of googling and found no more information about him. I also have his Facebook and Instagram account. You can contact me via my social media links or email.