Hostels have gotten a bit of a bad rap, particularly after Quentin Tarantino’s gore fest of a film, Hostel, incited fear in many travelers with plans to backpack through Europe. However, hostels can be just as nice as hotels and are often cheaper. They cater mostly to younger travelers or solo travelers, creating the perfect social atmosphere to help them befriend others circumnavigating the globe. Many people prefer staying at hostels for the communal feel and ease of simply having a place to rest their heads at night. However, like any traveling scenario, a couple safety tips should be minded before your stay to ensure you have the best experience possible.
The cleanliness and safety of hostels vary considerably from place to place. Some hostels are grimy, bed-bug infested lairs while others are on par with nicer hotels with a refreshing hip aesthetic. Prior to booking your hostel, it’s always wise to read some reviews of the place to get a feel for the general safety of it, what sort of age demographic stays there, how clean it is, and how amicable the staff is. Hostels each have different policies about what to bring, how your luggage may be stored, and even when their individual curfews are. Browse this information beforehand and save yourself any bad surprises that you might otherwise experience by not doing your research. Staying in a hostel is usually a pleasant experience, so long as you know what to expect.
All hostels have lockers within the rooms where you can store your things. Utilize them rather than splaying your belongings out on your bunk, as hostels are often very communal. It is rare that you will be able to get your own room in a hostel. Typically, you share a room with several other people, and unless your party is large enough to occupy an entire room, you’ll wind up with strangers. You can take advantage of the social atmosphere of hostels by befriending these roommates, but don’t assume that you can leave your things out unattended just because they seem friendly. Bring your own padlock for added safety, opting for something durable. While showering or leaving the room, always return your belongings to your locker where they can be safely stored in your absence.
If you have a nice DSLR camera, refrain from wearing it around your neck where everyone can see it. People are more prone to steal items if they’ve seen them being flashed around at an earlier time. It gives them a target to look for should they decide to fish through your things. The best place to keep your camera on the go is in a backpack or satchel that you wear at all times. Only take the camera out prior to snapping a photo, and then return it to your bag out of sight. It is also wise to remember that, while you may want to capture the culture of other countries with your lens, you shouldn’t snap photos of other people without asking.
While traveling, try not to carry a wallet with large amounts of cash and all of your cards. Wallets can walk away easily, and while there’s no reason to develop paranoia about being pickpocketed, there’s no reason to neglect common sense either. If your wallet gets stolen, it will be a lot less stressful if you didn’t keep every single card and cent of cash to your name inside. Spread your money out between different places, so that you can’t lose every bit of it in one go. Utilize a money belt, which is a zippable pocket strip that you can wear beneath your clothing, usually around your neck or waist. This is more of a traveling tip than just a hostel tip, but money belts are also great because they can be worn while sleeping at a hostel.
If you’re a woman traveling alone, it may be wise to keep on the safe side and stay at a hostel that has either women-only dorms or floors. There are even some female-only hostels. Hostels that cater solely to females may have different amenities than regular hostels, such as hairdryers in the bathrooms and full-length mirrors. They also tend to be less party-oriented. Sleeping in a room with women only will eliminate the late-night snoring that some travelers may find irritating. Some women may simply take comfort in staying in the company of other woman travelers, rather than alone in a co-ed room.
Hostels are known for being somewhat of a rowdy alternative to hotels. Often, they are frequented by young travelers who like to party, which means that your hostel may not be the easiest place to get a good night’s rest unless you have the foresight to pack a decent pair of ear plugs. In some cases, hostels have common rooms or bars where travelers can enjoy themselves, which could be loud even several floors up in your dorm. Likewise, travelers coming home for the night may make some noise when entering the dark room, attempting to feel their way to their bunk.
Most hostels do not provide a towel, leaving you in quite a predicament when it comes time to take your first hot shower after traveling. Occasionally, a hostel will provide a towel rental service. However, the best option is to bring your own towel. There are highly absorbent travel towels available if you’d prefer not to pack a large, fluffy towel. These towels dry quickly and can become very compact. Some hostels even require you to bring your own sheets, so always check on the policy prior to your stay.
Hostels usually have a locked room where bulky bags are kept. It’s best to have some sort of daypack that you can separate from the rest of your luggage with only the items you’ll need while you stay at the hostel. Remember, all of your belongings need to be able to fit inside a small locker in your room, so prepare to shuffle around your clothing and valuables accordingly. The only people that have access to the storage rooms are the hostel employees themselves, so you should be fine leaving a laptop inside your bag for the day while you’re out traveling, especially if it doesn’t fit in your locker. But otherwise, you’ll want to keep most of your valuables on you at all times.