Is Staying in a Hostel Safe?
When asked about whether to stay in a hostel, one of the most common questions we get asked is are hostels safe? For me, I find staying in a hostel one of the safest places to stay, particularly when traveling alone.
The main reason for this is that you have plenty of other travelers around who can look out for you if something goes wrong. For example, say you’re in a hostel and you feel uncomfortable or nervous in any way you’ll find travelers throughout the hostel in communal spaces and dorm rooms who you can ask for advice.
Along with this, 9 times out of 10, these travelers are nice people and in the same situation as you and will be more than happy to help. They’ll also be aware if anything sketchy is happening to you.
Of course, you will get some unkind people in hostels, and with there being more shared facilities, there is more of a likelihood of petty crime such as belongings being stolen. However, if you stick to the tips we have listed in the guide below, you can help minimise the risk.
If you want to find out more about staying in hostels, along with safety, have a scroll down below to find out more…
How to Survive Staying in a Hostel
You’ve booked your flight and picked your hostel, it’s now time to navigate your hostel stay so here is a quick guide to help you survive the first few days of hostel living. First things first, make friends! It is going to be daunting but pretty much everyone in the hostel is in the same position as you and wants to meet other travelers.
In other settings, it may be weird to just wander up to someone and strike up a conversation but in a hostel, this is completely normal. Making friends is one of the best ways to feel safer in a hostel especially when you’ve just arrived in a completely foreign location.
Now we’ve spoken about when you arrive in a hostel lets backtrack a little and talk about how prepping before you go can help you out. So, make sure you research and choose the right hostel: Read reviews, compare prices, and consider factors like location, safety, and amenities. Look for hostels with positive feedback on cleanliness, friendly staff, and a good atmosphere.
When you first arrive in a hostel and a new destination, your mind is probably going to be flooding with thoughts and worries. One way to keep sane is by keeping your belongings secure. You don’t want to be checking every 10 minutes when you’re trying to go to sleep that your bags are safe.
While hostels generally have lockers or storage options, it’s still important to take precautions. Use the provided lockers to store your valuables, and consider a small padlock for your backpack or luggage for added security.
If you’re heading to a hostel for your first time and wondering what you need to know before you go or what you need to pack, you can check out both our what to pack for a hostel stay and staying in a hostel for the first time guides.
Things to Know About Safety in Hostels
Crime in Hostels
While hostels are generally safe, it’s important to be aware of potential safety risks to prepare yourself in advance. Below I have given you some advice regarding crime in hostels.
Most commonly you need to look out for personal safety and theft. While incidents of physical assault or violence are rare in hostels, it’s still wise to practice general personal safety measures. Trust your intuition and avoid situations or individuals that make you uncomfortable.
Stick to well-lit, populated areas of the hostel, and it surroundings and inform hostel staff if you feel unsafe or witness anyone acting sketchy.
To make you feel more comfortable most hostels should have safety measures in place to control access to the premises and dormitories. Look for hostels that have secure entry systems, such as key cards or keypad entry to your rooms..
While we talk about crime in hostels, it is also important to approach your travels with an open and positive mindset. The majority of hostel experiences are safe and enjoyable, and provide an excellent opportunity to connect with fellow travelers from around the world. Talking about potential crimes that can happen is just to give you a bit of warning in advance.
Common Scams in Hostels
Ok, let’s talk about scams in hostels. While these don’t happen that often, these are some of the common ones you should look out for in advance.
First up, when booking your hostel, make sure you look for signs that the hostel may be fake. Sometimes, scammers create fake websites or listings for hostels that simply don’t exist. Always double-check the hostel’s official website and check there is an adequate amount of reviews. If a hostel has 4 similar 5* reviews and no website, it probably doesn’t exist.
This one has happened to me a few times, and that is being overcharged or encountering hidden fees. This is when you turn up to a hostel and they try to charge you more than the agreed-upon price or add a few unexpected and random fees upon arrival. Be sure to know how much you reserved the hostel for in the first place and check on your booking for any loopholes where they might try to charge more.
The next one follows up on our first point of fake businesses. Sometimes hostels don’t look into the external tours they provide enough. Some hostels may offer tours or other services that promise remarkable experiences but fail to deliver. Do your research, read reviews, and ask fellow travelers for recommendations before booking any tours or services through the hostel.
This one is probably the most common scam, and it’s room theft caused by unauthorized access. Unfortunately, hostels are typically easier to access than hotels, with open common areas and some having bars where other travelers can come along for a drink. This can lead to people wandering into dorm rooms to steal some stuff. Protect your belongings by using lockers and watch out for any suspicious behavior.
Solo Female Travelers’ Safety in Hostels
Traveling solo as a female can be an incredibly empowering and rewarding experience. However, I know it can be daunting. Across my travels, female travelers have been the strongest backpackers and you will often find more of them than men. To ease your mind a bit, here are some specific tips for staying in a hostel as a solo female traveler.
First, always trust your gut instincts and intuition when interacting with fellow travelers and staff. If something feels off or uncomfortable, remove yourself from the situation and seek help from the hostel staff if needed.
Second, although most mixed dorms are completely fine to stay in and something you shouldn’t have to worry about, there is always the option to stay in female-only dorms. If this makes you feel more comfortable, do some research in advance and book a hostel which caters to this.
Finally, make connections with other female travelers. Look for other female solo travelers in the hostel who might have insights or experiences to share about what it’s like to travel as a female on your own. Bonding with like-minded travelers and experienced travelers is one of the best ways to keep safe.
Are Hostels Safe for Solo Travelers?
Hostels are by far the best place to stay for solo travelers, they tend to be social, affordable and provide lots of events to meet other backpackers. However, you might wonder if they’re a safe place to stay on your own. In short, yes they are but to keep safe I have listed 15 of the best hostel safety tips from personal experience…
15 Hostel Safety Tips
#1 – Read recent reviews before booking
This might seem like a standard thing to do, however, a lot of people forget to do it. Hostelworld, Booking.com, and other sites will have reviews from the travelers about the hostel. Have a scroll through and see what they say. My usual rule is to make sure the hostel has at least a 7.0 rating and over 50 reviews. Hostels under this can often be fake or just have really bad facilities.
#2 – Check the security rating
Along with overall reviews, you can also check out the security ratings. This tells you how secure the hostel is for safety. Make sure this has a high enough score, otherwise, I’d recommend avoiding it.
#3 – Use hostel lockers and bring padlocks
If you’re staying at a hostel, they will pretty much always provide you with lockers. Some provide bigger ones for all your stuff, some smaller ones for your important belongings. After staying in hostels for a while, you may get complacent and forget to lock your things up.
However, it is super important that you do as despite most people being good people, hostels are known for being a prime target for thieves. Also, remember to bring a padlock with you. Hostels usually don’t provide these.
#4 – Don’t leave your belongings unattended
This is similar to point number three, but as I mentioned you may get complacent in hostels and just leave your stuff unattended for convenience. However, you should’t do this as there can be opportunists looking to swipe your stuff. Either keep it in eye sight or lock it up.
#5 – Stay on the bottom bunk if you’re an active sleeper
Right, this one is for those active sleepers who perhaps roll around or like to sleep walk. Staying in a top bunk can be dangerous for you guys, especially if there are no railings. Try to grab a bottom bunk or ask the hostel staff in advance if you can stay in one.
#6 – Learn the area
One of the first things I do before I get to the hostel, and also once I’ve arrived, is get to know the area it is in. When you’re prepping for your trip, have a little look around the area and make sure it’s safe. When you’re there, have a wander around (during the day) and try to get to know your surroundings and any key landmarks, in case you get lost or your phone dies later on in your stay.
#7 – Make a reliable friend
You’ll always feel safer in a place if you have someone else you feel comfortable around with you. Pick your friends wisely in a hostel and if you’re leaving them with any of your belongings make sure they’re trustworthy. It’s always great to have a trustworthy friend who will watch out for you and your stuff without you even asking.
#8 – Keep your family & friends at home updated
Make sure to give family or friends at home the name and address of the hostel you’re staying at. If anything goes wrong, they know where you’re staying and can contact the hostel. If you’re backpacking and staying in many, just drop them a text when you arrive, perhaps when you’re doing the check-in process.
#9 – Get travel insurance
This is just another friendly reminder, that when you’re travelling and staying in hostels to get travel insurance. This will give you and your belongings and an extra layer of protection if anything goes wrong.
#10 – Drink as responsibly as you can
Of course, lots of hostels are known for partying and if you drink, you’ll probably have a fair few on a hostel night out. However, if you’re on your own, be cautious of how much you’re drinking don’t get too wasted that you don’t know where your hostel or room is.
As much as most travelers are lovely, at the end of the day you don’t know them that well and they’re not responsible for you getting home.
#11 – Consider female-only dorm rooms
Mixed dorm rooms are not something to be afraid of. You will often have a fair mixture of males and females. However, if you’re female and nervous about your first hostel stay and would feel more comfortable sharing with just other women, there is often the option to stay in a female-only dorm room.
#12 – Speak to the staff if you have concerns
If you’re feeling uncomfortable in any way or you have a concern about another traveler in the hostel, make sure you to speak to the staff. You can do this in a subtle way, and in most cases they will be more than happy to help, after all it is their job to make sure their guests have a comfortable stay.
#13 – Make a copy of your passport and send it to yourself
This one is more of an overall travel tip, but often passports can be mislaid when staying in a hostel. Having a copy of this makes it so much easier to get a replacement or emergency travel document. It also comes in handy if the hostel needs a copy.
#14 – Hide some backup money or a spare card in a different compartment
In case you lose your wallet or purse, it is always handy to keep some emergency money elsewhere! I always put a spare debit card and some cash in a different compartment to my main wallet. This means if something goes wrong, you won’t be stranded without any money.
#15 – Keep a flashlight or your phone within reach
If you’re walking around the hostel at night, perhaps you need the toilet, it’s always handy to have a flashlight or phone within reach. You can’t switch the main light on in the middle of the night and you don’t want to be wandering around in the dark where you could potentially injure yourself or get lost.
Final Thoughts on Are Hostels Safe?
So that was our guide on hostel safety! I hope we have helped answer the question “are hostels safe?” Of course, you have to keep your wits about you when staying in hostels and traveling in general, but overall they’re a very safe place to stay, and sharing with other travelers really shouldn’t put you off.
They are one of my preferred places to stay particularly if you’re traveling solo as they’re typically super social and also very affordable. Just make sure you take onboard the tips & advice we have listed above and you should have a great safe stay.
Remember, each hostel has its own unique atmosphere and vibe, so don’t be afraid to experiment and try different ones. Happy hostel hopping!