Despite what you may have seen in a few movies, hostels are generally quite safe. Most of the people staying there are simply fellow travelers looking for cheap accommodation and the opportunity to meet new friends. However, nowhere is absolutely risk-free and some hostels can be pretty sketchy. You really have no idea who you’ll be sharing a bunk bed with when you check into your room. Luckily, there are steps you can take to ensure your personal safety and protect your valuables.
1. Choose the Right Hostel
Staying safe starts will finding the right hostel. Depending on where you’re traveling to, the options can vary widely so you need to do your research. One of the first things you should do is read guest reviews on sites like Hostelworld and TripAdvisor. Look for properties with high safety and security ratings and be sure to Google the hostel’s location to see if it is an area known for crime. Read through the comments to see if past guests specifically make reference to safety.
If you come across repeated reports of theft or sexual harassment by staff, you probably want to stay somewhere else. You should also check the hostel’s website to see if it comes across as a professional, reputable establishment. If for any reason you don’t feel certain about a hostel, trust your instincts.
2. Buy a Padlock
After you’ve chosen your hostel based on its location and safety ratings, you need to think about how you will keep your belongings safe when you get there. Most hostels offer padlocks for rent at the reception desk but it doesn’t hurt to travel with your own. Many establishments have pretty large lockers but if your backpack can’t fit, you’ll need to remove your valuables and stash them in the locker.
You’re probably not backpacking with lots of jewelry but you may have a passport, camera, laptop, and tablet and other electronics which you need to secure. If someone grabs your backpack from next to your bed, they won’t get anything valuable. You can also keep a small luggage lock on your backpack or suitcase if there are no lockers provided. This simple step can save you lots of worry and money.
3. Take Your Valuables When You Leave the Room
When you head out to explore for the day, take your most important items with you in a secure daypack. You can use a money belt, anti-theft bag or any other style you’re comfortable with. You don’t want to leave credit cards, cash or your passport out on your bed when you leave. Simply stash them in a bag and keep them on you at all times. If you are heading to the beach and you’ll be alone, be sure to get a waterproof bag so you don’t have to leave your items on the sand.
4. Seep with Your Wallet and Passport Under Your Head
You may feel safe during the day but what about at night when you settle down for some much-needed rest? When the lights are out and everyone is asleep, that’s the perfect time for a thief to grab something that’s been left lying around. You can’t sleep with everything under your pillow but you can store your passport and wallet this way. Simply tuck them into your pillowcase and turn the opening toward of the pillowcase toward the wall. Only a very determined person would try to rob you and you would probably wake up anyway.
5. Keep Your Valuables Under Wraps
If you’re heading to a hostel in a big cosmopolitan city, you may not need to do this. However, if you’re going into a less developed area or you plan to stray off the beaten path, consider making your electronics look older than they are by using duct tape or stickers. Thieves are attracted to shiny new things so if your devices look like they’ve seen better days, they’ll escape attention. If you’re working while you travel, you may have lots of equipment but try not to have it all visible at once. You never know who may be eyeing your gear while you’re in the common room with your camera, laptop and hard drive on display. It probably goes without saying, but you should also not flash around large sums of cash.
6. Don’t Put All Your Money in One Location
You may be traveling with cash and a few debit and credit cards. You don’t want to lose them all if someone picks your pocket or steals your bag. Losing these items is bad enough when you’re at home but it may be difficult to contact your bank and cancel the cards while you’re traveling. The best thing to do when you’re on the road is to take out only small amounts of cash at a time and to have only one card in your possession at any time. Leave the others in your locker. If in any case, you lost all your money or if you’re robbed, the best way to stay safe and survive is to become self-reliant, ask assistance to the authorities and look for the embassy.
7. Don’t Let Anyone into Your Room if They Don’t Have a Key or Key Card
You may come back to your room and see someone outside struggling to get in and claiming their key isn’t working. Assuming that they’re telling the truth, you let them in not knowing that they’ll seize any opportunity to steal. Another common tactic is to knock on the door and say they left their key in the room. They’ll then wait until everyone is gone and look for things to steal. These practices are especially common in large dorms where you may not know everyone. You may feel awkward about leaving a roommate in the lurch if they really did forget their key but it is best not to open the door if you don’t know the person. If they’re genuine, they’ll head to reception to get their key sorted out.
8. Travel with a Rubber Door Wedge or Portable Lock
If you’re staying in a private room, you may worry about someone breaking into the room while you sleep. A simple solution is to pack a rubber door wedge and slide it under the door each night. Some models have an alarm which sounds if the wedge is disturbed. You can also get a portable door lock which prevents the door from opening inward. The only way someone would be able to get in would be to break down the door.
Hostels have a lot going for them. You get low-cost accommodation, a kitchen to prepare meals and lots of fun activities. However, safety is naturally a big concern for most travelers. Use a combination of the tips above to ensure both you and your possessions are safe the next time you share accommodation.
Author: Ben Brown is the owner of The Prepping Guide. Involved in Military for many years and write about Personal Security, Preparedness, Prepping, Survival, Self-Sufficiency and Readiness for Safety, both Physically and Digitally.