Traveller’s guide to hostel safety

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Although hostels are generally quite safe places to stay, it never hurts to take extra steps to help ensure your experience is positive. Especially since the budget nature of hostels often allows travellers to visit more destinations and have more new experiences during their travels.

While this means you'll be able to have even more fun on your adventure, it also means that you'll likely be spending minimal amounts of time where you're actually staying–and because of this, taking extra precautions to protect yourself and your belongings is necessary.

The steps that you need to take to put these precautions in place are simple, but not always obvious. So to help out, we've put together the below list of tips for keeping yourself and your belongings safe in hostels in Australia and around the world.

Tips for keeping yourself and your belongings safe when staying in hostels

Staying safe is vital to enjoying your holiday, so be sure to remember these quick tips for hostel safety next time you're planning an adventure.

Check reviews

Before committing to any given hostel, you'll want to check the reviews left by those who have stayed there before you.

This isn't to say that you should skip checking the website for the hostel you're considering staying in. This will still give you a good idea of the amenities and pricing. However, it won't provide lived experience from other guests, and this is arguably the most important piece of information you're going to want and need.

Focus on security first, followed by comfort and enjoyment, and only ever select accommodation that has mostly positive reviews.

Consider the location

You'll also want to think about the location of your chosen hostel. While staying in a safe area is important, you'll have a better experience if you pick a hostel close to the activities you're going to be wanting to do. This helps keep you safer because you're travelling less distance.

As a bonus, it also means you'll be able to reduce the amount of time you spend commuting, therefore leaving more time for fun. Speaking of commuting, if you're travelling down under, make sure you're aware of Australia's road rules and road signs.

Secure your valuables

Most people you come across in hostels will be honest travellers just out to have a good time like yourself. That doesn't mean, however, that you're never going to encounter someone with sticky fingers.

To avoid running into issues or losing any of your valuable possessions, we suggest keeping them secured at all times.

Most hostels will offer lockers for particularly valuable belongings, and making use of them is recommended. Just remember to keep a padlock handy so you can make sure no one else can get in.

Keep digital copies of important documents

Accidents happen and things get lost, but this usually isn't a big deal. If, however, the things in question are any of your important documents (especially if your passport is part of the equation), things can get incredibly messy in a very short timeframe.

After all, everyone can agree being stranded in a foreign country without your passport, running into visa issues due to lost paperwork, or experiencing many other document-related problems isn't fun at all.

To help avoid this, we suggest keeping digital copies of everything. Ideally, you'll keep them in cloud storage, or email them to yourself so they're available from any device, but where exactly you keep these digital copies is up to you.

Have travel insurance

The value of good travel insurance should never be underestimated. While this may not seem particularly relevant to the safety of yourself and your belongings while staying in a hostel, good policies tend to offer coverage for your belongings. This means you're protected in the unfortunate event that they get lost or damaged.

In this way, travel insurance helps you stress less about the things you've left behind in your room when you go out exploring for the day.

Make friends

There's safety in numbers, so it's always a good idea to form friendships with those you're sharing a room with.

Not only will this make your nights safer and more enjoyable, but you may even meet some unexpected travel companions if you've got similar itineraries.

Avoid getting wasted

Everyone likes to let loose a little when they're on holiday. When you're sharing a room with people you don't know, however, this isn't the best idea.

Keeping your wits about you is always advised and this means not indulging in anything that is going to impair your ability to protect yourself.

Stash backup cash

Purses and wallets are some of the most common items that go missing while travelling. Not only do you take them everywhere with you (which greatly increases their chances of being lost) but they're also easy targets for those with sticky fingers.

For this reason, we suggest always keeping a stash of backup cash. Preferably in a location where money isn't normally stored, like in your toiletries bag. Hopefully, you'll never need it, but if you do, you'll be grateful to have it.

Keep a light source handy

In a communal environment where everyone is trying to sleep, you'll make enemies pretty quickly if you need to flick on the large light in the room.

In order to avoid situations like this, it's a good idea to always keep a torch or other light source handy if you need to find something or get up in the middle of the night.

Shower with thongs

Finally, in any situation where you're using a communal shower, we strongly recommend showering with thongs on. For those who don't understand that term, we're talking about flip-flops for your feet, not the underwear.

Fungal infections are one of the biggest risks of stepping into a communal shower, but there's also plenty of bacteria floating about at any given time.

You may think this isn't a big deal as you'll be cleaning your feet, but given that they go back on the same patch of floor after they've been washed, it's better to be safe than sorry.

A quick note on hostel etiquette

Like all shared spaces, hostels have some extra etiquette requirements. You are sharing your sleeping and personal spaces with others after all.

If you want to keep everyone happy and friendly in your dorm, we suggest that you:

  • Keep things tidy
  • Be mindful of noise levels while your roommates are asleep
  • Avoid setting the temperature to extremes if there's climate control
  • Be polite at all times

Oh, and for the love of all that's good in this world, always book a private room if you're intending on getting up to, shall we say, extracurricular activities.

Final word

Staying in hostels can be a great way to make your adventures more budget-friendly while also enriching your travel experience. While there are, obviously, a few additional safety concerns in comparison to staying in a hotel, the positives outweigh the negatives in nine out of ten cases.

In addition to the above tips, we also suggest travelling with a companion. However, with solo adventures on the rise, we understand this isn't always desirable (or even possible).

The good news is that by following this guide, travel companions shouldn't be a necessity, so you can enjoy your holiday however you please.

Jessica Jones
Written by
Jessica Jones
Jess has been writing educational content for almost ten years with a focus on lifestyle content. She loves coffee, dogs and all things fitness, and can often be found with her nose buried in a book and her music blaring through her earphones.

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