In 2005, director Eli Roth released one of his most notable films – Hostel – that turned an Eastern European hostel into a torture factory. In a heavily Quentin Tarantino-esque fashion, a post-college backpacking trip for two average American 20-somethings instead became a bloodbath of theatrical proportions.
For those that have never traveled abroad along the various hostel circuits of the world, there is a common misperception regarding hostels, their quality, and their safety. It would be wrong to blame Roth for contributing to this misperception (the plot was ridiculously far-fetched for hostels or otherwise) but at the very least he didn’t help the cause of debunking the myths associated with hosteling.
Hollywood aside, for those new to hosteling, the first question is almost always:
“Are hostels safe?”
The short answer: YES! Simple as that. If you’re not that type of person that reads into detail, now would be a good time to click to the next article. But, if you want to understand why hostels are safe, and how to avoid uncomfortable hosteling situations, read on!
3 Tips for Hostel Safety & Security
When staying at a hostel, in order to keep yourself and your belongings safe, I’ve found it best to follow the same rules you would if you were parking your car on the street. You’ll probably find them surprisingly similar…
1.) Be aware of your surroundings and pick a safe neighborhood – You wouldn’t park your car in the seediest part of town would you, even if it meant a shorter walk to your destination? Probably not. The same goes for picking a hostel. Most hostel safety concerns can be avoided by picking the right hostel from the get-go. You’ll end up in a better location, and with a clientele (i.e. your roommates) that doesn’t consist of the dregs of the nomadic world. Sites like Hostelworld.com have hundreds upon thousands of reviews for certain hostels, which even include “Safety” and “Security” in their rankings. Look for ones that have strong overall rankings (80% or above on Hostelworld, 3 and ½ stars or more on TripAdvisor, etc.), and you’re almost guaranteed to feel comfortable with your surroundings.
2.) Don’t leave valuables in plain sight – In this day and age, chances are you’re packin’ some sort of tablet or laptop, a phone, cash, credit cards, and…oh yeah, your passport! Needless to say you’ve got lots of goodies that someone else might want, and it’s better to take the preventative action to stow them accordingly.
3.) Lock it up! – This goes hand-in-hand with the last one. When you arrive and drop your bags in your room – especially when you’re in a shared dorm – take the time to get set up and lock up your stuff. I don’t care how friendly the guy from Norway in the bunk above you appears to be, or if you’re running late for your museum tour…take the time to lock up your valuables! More than likely, you have nothing to worry about. In fact, most of the time I leave my bag and clothes out on or next to my bed (seriously, the people staying in good hostels are great folks!). Regardless, to err on the side of caution for any breaches in security, I always – at the very least – lock up my electronics, and almost always keep my passport and cards on me at all time.
Hopefully this puts you a bit more at ease. If you need any tips on what to pack, please check out the “Hostel Packing List” and “Backpacking Essentials” articles for additional info on locks, hidden pockets, and other security tips and tools.
Oh, and sorry Norway…I didn’t mean to single you guys out. You are fine people indeed, and you have really, really nice fjords…