When travelers want an affordable place to stay, hostels often come to mind. Historically, hostels are a favorite of backpacking travelers, but also perfect for people looking for budget-friendly accommodations where they can meet other like-minded travelers. The typical hostel guest used to be a traveler under 30. These days all kinds of people use them – from groups and solo travelers to families and retired couples. Of course, they are still popular with Millennials and the Gen Y crowd.
The question here is this: are hostels safe? Generally speaking yes, but there are a few factors to consider. Before you book, our tips will help guide you and hopefully ease your mind.
Book a Quality Hostel
For the most part, hostels are safe and surrounded by people. Hostels generally have a strict policy of not allowing non-guests inside. That said however, not all hostels are created equal. They range in size, quality and feel. These days, almost every hostel offers an option of a dorm-type room, private rooms and some even have private sleeping pods. Some are in trendy, artsy locations like a reclaimed dry-cleaning factory with a pool or former winery turned hostel. Some hostels are geared towards the party crowd (usually marked as such), while others cater to a comfortable, home-like atmosphere. Even more, some are upscale boutique while others may be downright gross.
The key is to look for hostels that have a 5-star rating and are given good reviews by someone who’s been there. Cheaper is not always better! Hostel World, Hostels.com, and Hostelling International are good places to start your search. Hostelz.com will compare prices and give worldwide reviews from many different websites all at once.
Always check the reviews and ratings – they will help you gauge whether a hostel is generally considered safe or not, especially reviews from people who frequent them. See if the hostel you’re interested in has an up-to-date, appealing website. Trust your gut – if you get there and it doesn’t feel right, ask to be moved or leave.
Ask these questions to nail down your preferences and determine safety:
- How close is the hostel to the places I want to go?
- Do I have a choice between a private room and a dorm-type room?
- Is breakfast included and if so, what kind of breakfast is it?
- How late is check-out?
- Is internet included and are there outlets by the bed?
- What is the bathroom situation and what kind of showers do they have?
- What are the amenities and organized activities on site? Bars, kitchens, hammocks, common areas, pools…
- Do I get a locker and if so, is it free?
- What kind of neighborhood is the hostel located in?
- Is there a security staff?
Keeping Valuables Safe at Hostels
A safe hostel will always offer a locker. It doesn’t matter if you book a private or dorm room – always use a locker to keep your belongings safe. Purchase a quality padlock and lock it up!
You are allowed to keep your stuff locked in the locker while you’re out for the day, but also use these smart safety tips:
- Don’t flaunt your valuables.
- Consider purchasing a backpack protector.
- Take your important documents and valuables with you.
- Never leave cash. Use one of our tips on how to hide cash while traveling.
- Never leave your stuff lying out for all to view. Keep them hidden whenever possible.
- Keep your most valuable things in your pillowcase while you sleep, especially your wallet and passport.
- For extra protection, a small slash proof, water-proof portable safe is a good option.
Safe Sleeping in a Hostel
Consider your comfort level when booking. If you are in a group and don’t mind mixed-gender rooms, go for it. But if you’re a female solo traveler and don’t feel comfortable with it, seek out the female-only dorms or a private room. Some hostels have 2-bed private room suites or 4-person rooms. Remember, the more beds in a room, the more noise.
Consider these additional tips for safe sleeping:
- Look for a room with fewer beds.
- Sleep on the top bunk, or hang a towel for privacy if you’re on the bottom bunk.
- Keep your belongings packed up. If you ever feel unsafe, you can grab and go.
- If you don’t feel safe, always speak up. Talk to the hostel staff and ask to be relocated.
- Bring earplugs or headphones and a blindfold for better sleep.
Bonus Safety Tips
- Some international hostels have curfews and/or limited staff. Know the limits of your chosen hostel so you don’t get locked out.
- Don’t forget your own toiletries and towel. Be sure to ask about amenities before booking, because there are some that don’t even offer bed sheets.
- Flip-flops are a must-have item to protect your feet in the shower and out.
- Never open the hostel door for strangers.
- Ask the hostel staff if there are areas of the city or scams you should be aware of.
Some would say everyone should try hostel travel at least once in their lives. If you think it might be for you, do your homework and give it a try! Trust your instincts and use awareness to guide you. Consider purchasing travel insurance to further protect your travel dreams. Stay safe friends, and let the adventures begin!
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