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Believe it or not, I get asked this question about hostels and safety a lot. Way too much, actually! I especially hear the “eek, hostels, really?!” from people who (surprise) don’t travel all that much – mostly fellow Americans who I encounter in my daily life. My people, my people, you are missing out on a lot of fun.
Why is there so much hesitation about hostels? I can attest to it. I used to wrinkle my nose at hostels too. Sue me, I was a princess growing up. At the end of the day, I honestly think there is still this lingering myth that hostels are dirty and unsafe, and therefore, not suitable for meeting the needs of travelers, especially those of the female variety who love to venture around the world without anyone else. … erm, like me!
I also think a rampant misunderstanding exists in my country in particular. In the United States, hosteling is more common now than it was in years past, but hostels aren’t nearly as embraced or widespread as in Europe or Australia. So of course people wouldn’t quite “get” sharing rooms and bathrooms with strangers, haha.
So it’s time to put the rumors to rest! Hostels are awesome. Okay, sometimes I feel too old for hostel dorms, but a hostel’s quality atmosphere adds even more amazing memories to your trip. My adventures wouldn’t have been as cool without help from some great hostels.
Not to mention, hostels are like hotels in the sense that they are very diverse and appeal to a wide variety of travel styles and interests. Need some examples? I have stayed in hostels on the coast of Ireland. I have stayed in hostels that cooked dinners for you every single night. I have stayed in hostels that bake their own croissants. Some hostels even market themselves as “boutique” and “luxury,” and fit the bill.
Furthermore, on solo trips, hostels make it super easy to hang out with other travelers. Who doesn’t love new friends?
Anyway, time to address your core question: “are hostels safe?”
Hmmmm. Yes, yes, yes. I never once felt unsafe inside the walls of a hostel. Below are seven pretty cool reasons explaining why hostels rock. Hopefully you will give hostels a chance once you read and digest my post!
1. I have seen the movie Hostel and –
Hahaha, why are people still referencing that terrible movie? It came out in 2005. 2000 and freakin’ 5. I had just graduated high school when Hostel was first released in theaters so it’s comical to me when people use an almost fifteen year old horror movie as a serious reason to fear hostels.
It is highly unlikely you will encounter serial killers and sociopaths at your hostel. I promise. The scariest thing at hostels are probably the lint in the drying machines, haha.
When in doubt, always read reviews and speak to other travelers about their experiences. You’ll avoid sketchy hostels that way. If you’re REALLY nervous (like beyond nervous), then check out HI Hostels. They are part of an organization and must meet certain standards to stay in it.
2. I’m a solo female traveler. Are hostels safe? Are mixed dorms safe?
Ahh, this is a question that I’ve thought about a lot over the years. Now personally I prefer female dorms. Why? Because I don’t like snorers, haha, and in my experience, some dudes can be impressive snorers. I’m grouchy without sleep. Rest makes for happy sightseeing.
But a peaceful night’s rest has nothing to do with safety, right?
Okay, speaking from experience, I’ve only stayed in a mixed dorm once, which happened to be on my most recent trip to Madrid. I loved my hostel so much I extended my stay. During those two days, no female dorms were available so I was put in a four bed mixed dorm. My one male roommate and I talked until after midnight about earning points on travel credit cards and ways I can travel more cheaply in the future by tracking my points and miles. It was a pleasant conversation.
In other words, no, mixed dorms are not unsafe. Still, your comfort is important. Book a female dorm if it makes you happy.
3. I’m scared someone will steal my cash and laptop.
In my experience, travelers develop a sense of camaraderie especially if the hostel has a family-like environment to bring people closer together. Once strangers and now friends. So most likely no one will mess with your stuff.
However, I do agree it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially if you’re traveling with expensive equipment like cameras and laptops. You don’t want to lose thousands of dollars worth of electronics. I shudder at the cost. Eek.
Always bring a lock with you. You can secure your belongings without fear. Hostels have lockers for a good reason. If you forget a lock, ask at the front desk if they sell them or where you can buy an appropriate lock in whatever city you’re in.
Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance regardless if you’re staying at a hostel or not. You can lose belongings at a hotel too, you know.
4. Are you sure hostels are safe? Aren’t they located in dodgy neighborhoods?
Not always! Many hostels are located right downtown near all of the tourist attractions! It’s pretty amazing if you think about it.
Yet, it makes sense to read the reviews, and research the hostel’s neighborhood well in advance. You want to be near the action or at the very least in a cool area where you can feel like a local.
Another tip. If you’re a woman traveling alone, I would try and find reviews written by fellow solo female travelers. I don’t want to hop on my soapbox in this post, but we all know that a 6’0″ man traveling with buddies may have an entirely different experience in a neighborhood compared to a small woman who’s traveling on her own. Perspective is super duper important.
Research your butt off and you will be fine.
5. How do I pick the best possible hostel?
Am I wearing you down and making your reconsider hostels? I hope so! As I’ve said earlier, hostels are so diverse that something exists for every type of traveler. But this variety also means you need to reflect on what’s important to you. Meaning you need to really think about your priorities as a traveler in order to find the best hostel for you.
For example, if you want a good night’s sleep so you can rise with the sun and see all the sights, then you may want to avoid a place that advertises itself as a “party” hostel. Inside, look for a small hostel that prides itself on being a cosy and quiet place.
I know I sound like a broken record, but, seriously, you need to read reviews. You also want to go directly to the hostel’s website itself. Does it advertise game nights, free dinners, and other activities? Then you may want to book if your plan is to meet other travelers.
Need more help for traveling alone? Check out my 25 tips for solo female travel in Europe!
6. Can I still meet people if I don’t stay in a hostel?
Absolutely! Granted, it may be more difficult to find other solo travelers, but still totally possible! I have a few suggestions…
- Take a free walking tour. These tours appeal to backpackers and solo travelers alike. There’s a good chance you will strike up a conversation with someone on your tour. I always seem to latch onto a new buddy.
- Sign up for a day trip that appeals to your personal interests. You are bound to come across someone similar to you! It happened to me on a food tour in Montreal. We went to a hockey game afterwards.
- Use meetup or couchsurfing to find events. Bigger cities always have meetups that welcome newcomers. You will have an instant circle of friends.
- Download a swiping app to find new friends. Bumble, Bumble BFF, even Tinder are great for making connections with travelers and locals. Just be clear about your intentions upfront to avoid any awkward situations.
7. Not a safety question but am I too old for hostels?
Ehhh, doubtful. Age is only a number.
First of all, no one really disclosures his or her age unless you directly ask. So the subject probably won’t come up. Let’s face it. It’s hard to tell someone’s age by looking at him or her. We all know some super youthful forty year olds and some … *ahem* seasoned twenty year olds. If you feel weird about your age, then don’t say anything at all and go with the flow.
Second of all, age stops existing when you travel. I know it sounds weird, but my experience reflects this fact. I’ve had wonderful experiences bonding with people who are in college and travelers who are older than my parents.
At my last hostel, I spoke to people of all ages, and I have never been the oldest person staying there.
So are hostels safe? Yes, I think I made a pretty good case for why they are! Have you ever stayed in a hostel? What information would you add to this post?