Are Hostels Safe? What To Expect & Safety Tips In 2024

Cover image for 'Are Hostels Safe' featuring a sign with the word 'hostel on it
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Are hostels safe in 2024? Want to know what to expect? Then read on!

So you’re about to embark on a backpacking adventure and wonder if staying in a hostel is safe. Well, as someone who’s stayed in their fair share of hostel dormitories, I want to give you all the information on hostel safety,

You’ve already decided which country(s) you’ll visit and what you want to see and do there but, where will you stay? Have you thought about staying in a hostel? Of course, you have! That’s why you’re here!

I’m about to tell you why staying in a hostel isn’t just a right of passage for all you backpackers out there but also why it can be one of the best things you can do on your travels.

I’ll take you through all you need to know about hostel safety and etiquette, where to book your hostels and finish by answering some FAQs before wrapping up. So let’s crack on and find out all there is to know about hostels.

Are Hostels Safe? Honest Opinion

image of a backpacker at the reception of a hostel

Generally speaking, yes they are very safe. Hostels are a great place to hang out, meet new friends and have a great time (and sleep, of course). Choosing the right hostel is key but you’ll find most are clean, friendly and come with some great facilities. However, it would be foolish to assume that incidents never occur with the high turnover of guests at hostels.

I’ve stayed in hostels in Central and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia and have never personally encountered any safety issues or theft. The people who stay in hostels are usually travellers just like you. They’re usually on a budget, looking for a good time and hopefully will meet some cool new people.

There’s also a sense of community at hostels where travellers look out for each other since nearly everyone staying there will be in a foreign country. Hostels have come a long way over the years and there are places to stay for every type of traveller which we’ll go into later.

In my honest opinion, hostels are a great way to travel on a budget, and I wouldn’t hesitate to stay in one again in the future. With some street smarts and an open mind, you’ll see that hostels are perfectly safe.


Are Hostels Safe In Europe?

Travelling in Europe can be expensive so hostels can be the perfect budget alternative to costly hotels and, best of all, they’re perfectly safe!

The biggest issue you might come across in Europe is theft. You may hear stories of pickpockets in major cities but as long as you look after your possessions, this will never be an issue.

But since most people in hostels just want a cheap bed for the night they won’t be too concerned with your possessions. There are usually lockers to seal away any valuables and reception normally has a safe for passports etc. This goes for most decent hostels across the globe,

Overall, hostels are a great way to save money and meet others while travelling through Europe and you be pleased to know that it’s perfectly safe.


Are Hostels Safe For Solo Travellers?

Hostels are absolutely safe for solo travellers. Personal safety shouldn’t be a problem whilst staying in hostels, certainly from other guests.

Many people stay in hostels as solo travellers and this is the best time to try and make some new friends. I’ve had so many nights out, dinners and day trips with different people from different backgrounds and still keep in touch with many of them now.

However, solo travel isn’t all fun and games and if you ever feel like something doesn’t seem quite right you should always tell reception straight away. They will look after you and make sure you’re safe – they have a reputation to keep!

You shouldn’t have to worry about possessions or non-guests entering your hostel – the front door is locked after a certain time and no one is going to enter your room without a key to the dorm.


Are Hostels Safe For Women?

Hostels are a very safe option for women. I’ve met many female travellers in my time, many of them solo and they’ve never complained about feeling unsafe in a hostel.

While the idea of sharing a dormitory or bathroom with male guests might not sound pleasant, I’ve never known any female guest who can’t deal with it. Shared bathrooms are usually separated into male and female and it’s unlikely you’ll be meeting any creeper guys while there are so many other people around.

If this is something you’re not comfortable with, many hostels offer female-only dorms. This is a great choice for any females who are concerned with sharing a dorm with male guests.

As mentioned before, as long as you show a little caution you shouldn’t have any issue with personal safety or theft. Believe it or not, I’ve met more women travelling solo than men, who are more likely to travel in groups.

šŸ’” Pro Tip: When using sites such as Hostelworld just use the ‘filters’ and select ‘Female Dorm’ to find all the female-only rooms available!


What is it Really Like When Staying In A Hostel?

I’ve stayed in many hostels over the years and picked up quite a few handy hostel tips and tricks along the way. For any young travellers on a budget, hostels are the way to go. That’s not to say they’re just for budget travellers! Hostels have come a long way even from when I started travelling. Many of them are certainly better than some of the awful hotels I’ve stayed in over the years!

I still remember my very first time staying in a hostel. It was in Sydney years ago and I was definitely out of my comfort zone. After spending three months in Thailand in cheap private rooms and beach huts, I really didn’t know what to do in a hostel.

The more hostels I stayed in as I travelled, the more I learned how to extract the most from my stays. That’s why I want to share everything there is to know about staying in a hostel (especially for you first-timers!) I want you guys to love hostels as much as I do and make the most out of your hostel experience.


So What Is A Hostel Exactly?

image of two backpacker entering a hostel doorway

The traditional youth hostels were set up to provide a no-frills cheap accommodation solution, mainly for under-18s. Richard Schirrman came up with the idea of the original youth hostel, or Jugendherberge, in Germany in 1912 to allow children to travel to other parts of their country safely and cheaply.

The idea of the hostel quickly spread across Europe and more and more youths could travel and explore in exchange for a few tasks such as cleaning, cooking and general maintenance. This a great way to make sure the hostel was being looked after and keep the rooms affordable. It wasn’t long before organisations such as YHA and IYHF were formed and hostels became the affordable choice for young travellers all over Europe.

Image of several people sharing a communal kitchen. One person is on his laptop on the table

The concept of the traditional hostel has evolved quite a bit and the hostels we see today are set up more for backpackers. Today’s hostels still keep many traits of the traditional youth hostels including shared dormitory accommodation (although private rooms are sometimes available), common areas, communal kitchens and shared bathrooms.

But a hostel isn’t just a cheap place to sleep anymore. Many of today’s hostels have more amenities and facilities than well-priced hostels (which I’ll tell you more about later) which will give you a much richer travel experience.


How To Book A Hostel?

Image of someone working on their laptop in a cafe with a coffee in the foreground

I’m not just talking about how to use Google to search for a hostel. When it comes to booking the best hostel, it all comes down to one thing – personal preference!

Booking a hostel is very easy and many are listed on sites such as Hostelworld, Hostel Bookers and even on sites Booking.com and Hotels.com. Gone are the days of wandering around town aimlessly wearing all your gear in the baking sun, looking for a place to crash (although I still see this quite often!)

You may or may not have considered the following criteria when booking your hostel but it’s important that you think about what I’m about to list. This will make your stay in a hostel much more comfortable.

āž”ļø Hostelworld is the best booking site with a huge selection of hostels worldwide, all rated and reviewed by travellers like you.


1. Choosing The Right Type Of Hostel

Image of a hostel dorm room with a bunk bed and window view

Hostels aren’t just a budget, no-frills option anymore. These days there are several types of hostels to choose from, especially in the bigger cities and popular destinations. Some of the main types of hostels are:

šŸ’» Flashpacker/Boutique Hostels

Even though we think of hostels as the budget option, there are always exceptions to the rule. Flashpacker hostels, boutique hostels and luxury hostels (whatever you want to call them) are obviously for those who can afford a more upscale lifestyle. Check out this hostel in Miami to see what I’m talking about!

This is a great option for digital nomads or for those who have a little extra cash to spend (treat yourself to the odd night). Your hard-earned cash goes a long way as you wander the spacious common rooms and admire the upscale decor. Your private room will be better than a lot of hotels and of course, there’s free wifi!

šŸø Party Hostels

Do you like to party? Who doesn’t? If you love a party on your travels then these are obviously the hostel for you. They normally have all the typical facilities of a regular hostel but may not always have a kitchen (instead you order from their restaurant.)

You’ll meet plenty of outgoing people and there are loads of drink offers like happy hour, 2 for 1 and usually an organised bar crawl. Many party hostels with have a bar and the restaurant is cleared for all you party animals to dance the night away. The Flying Pig Downtown in Amsterdam (where else) is a shining example to all other party hostels!

That’s not to say it’s all party! There’s usually a wonderfully chilled atmosphere during the day and plenty of activities to keep you busy. Just don’t expect to get a lot of sleep as even a private room and earplugs won’t help you when the hostel is in full-on party mode.

šŸ’ø Budget Hostels

These are the typical type of hostels you may have already imagined. Simple, cheap and cheerful. The standard of your typical budget hostel can vary greatly. Some are complete s*tholes and others are of a very high standard. You can normally tell by the price you pay for your stay. These are the best option for those who are travelling long-term. You can base yourself in a hostel for days or even weeks without stretching that budget too much.

You’ll usually find plenty of communal hangout areas like common rooms and there’s usually a kitchen for everyone to use. Rooms are normally shared bunk bed style with bathrooms also shared. For around $15 a night, you can stay in a posh dorm at Flow Spaces in Budapest with amazing facilities. That’s pretty cheap for a European capital stay!

šŸ„¾ Adventure Hostels

For the more outgoing among you, adventure hostels may be the way to go. You’ll usually find all your basic hostel facilities but each adventure hostel is quite different and has its own unique reason for travellers to stay.

Do you want to stay in a beach hostel where you’ll learn surfing every day in Australia? Perhaps snowboarding or skiing in the Swiss mountain hostel is more your thing? And these are just a couple of examples of the type of adventure hostels you can find.

Head to Adventure Hostel Queenstown to find one of the best examples in one of the most extreme locations!

šŸ¼ Family Hostels

Hostels aren’t just for budget travellers and solo adventurers of course. There are many who travel with children and there are plenty of options when it comes to family accommodation. You won’t find any loud, rowdy backpackers in these hotels! K’s House Kyoto is a great example!

Like many hostels, you’ll still find all your regular facilities ut there are more options with private rooms. Normally a family of 3 or 4 can book a room for themselves with a private bathroom. That’s not to say the place is full of children and families. But the option is there to make families feel more comfortable with their children.

šŸŒ± Eco-Friendly Hostels

If I’m being honest, every hostel should be an eco-friendly hostel and every person should be more conscious of the environment! I know that’s not the case but luckily there are eco-hostels for those who would like to stay with other like-minded eco-warriors!

These hostels usually carry some type of eco-certification due to their policies on renewable energy, recycling and sustainability. That’s not to say that they’re not fun! Sleep Green, for example, is within walking distance of Barcelona‘s incredible nightlife and offers a fun stay with the environment in mind!


2. Location

Choosing a hostel in the right location is one of the most important criteria for your stay. Depending on where you’re visiting, you may want to stay in the city centre or out in the sticks! This is down to you. Are you going to stay in a party hostel that’s close to the action and noise? Or would you prefer a quiet hostel closer to the beach so you can practise surfing in the morning?

This will have an effect on the pricing of your stay as the most desirable areas are often more expensive. Having said that, I have always found that there are normally plenty of budget hostels located right in the city or town centre.


3. Facilities

Image of communal showers from a hostel

What kind of facilities will you want from your hostel? Some but not all have communal kitchens so if saving money and cooking your own meals is important then make sure the hostel has it. Are you a solo traveller who would benefit from a common room to meet others? Does the hostel have lockers for your bag or valuables?

Some hostels may offer a private shower or bathroom in your shared dormitory. While this may sound great (normally it is) you’ll have to calculate whether this is worth the time if you share the room with 10 other guests in a party hostel!


4. Reviews

It goes without saying that you should always check the reviews of any hostel you are considering. Not only will this tell you all you need to know about the hostel from real travellers who have stayed. But you can also very easily tell what kind of hostel they claim to be.

For example, I stayed in a hostel with great reviews the night before I was heading out for the Inca Trail hike. Had I read all the reviews, I would have realised that everyone loved that particular hostel for the party atmosphere. It was not the best place to try and rest up before an early morning start. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone to the bar?!


Staying In A Hostel Vs Staying In A Hotel

image of a hostel common room where several travellers are sitting in various seats around the room

Now that we’ve established what a hostel is and how to book one, let me tell you the advantages of staying in a hostel and why you’ll love the experience. When compared to hotels and Airbnb there are certain differences and while some are obvious, some are not.

I once had a (friendly) argument with a travel buddy about staying in a hostel vs a hotel and, while I was adamant a traveller couldn’t get the same experience in a hotel, they disagreed!


Save Money

This is, of course, one of the biggest benefits of staying in a hostel. Imagine you’ve planned a trip through Europe and you start looking at hotel prices. With average prices per room for a single person at around ā‚¬65, you won’t be travelling for long.

With hostels, you can easily find shared accommodation for around ā‚¬20-ā‚¬25 a night in Europe’s most popular cities like London and Paris. Cities such as Budapest and Sofia usually offer even cheaper dorms at around ā‚¬12 or less!

Those travelling to South America, Asia and even Australia usually have a great choice of hostels at very affordable prices. Even in places like Thailand where most things are cheaper, I would still advise solo travellers to find a hostel if they want a more sociable atmosphere.


Make New Travel Friends

A silhouette image of many people jumping in front of a sunset

For the solo traveller, hostels are the ideal place to make new travel buddies. The fact that you’re sharing a room with strangers who are also maybe apprehensive about staying in a hostel means you’re definitely going to have something to talk about.

Common rooms are one of the best places to be social. So are balconies, pools (if they have them) and even the kitchen! When you are so far away from home, a friendly voice is always a welcome voice.

Another way to make new travel buddies is to join one of the hostel’s walking tours, day tours or bar crawls. You’ll soon end up with a new travel buddy and you might even start travelling together!


Hostel Staff Members

You may not think it but the staff at hostels can play a big part in whether you have a good stay or not. That’s because there’s a good chance that the owner was just like you once upon a time. A backpacker who travelled and stayed in hostels all around the world. That’s when they decided to open up a hostel of their own!

I’ve heard this many times and it’s one of the reasons why hostels are improving every year. Owners bring their own experience into the business and the staff are usually travellers themselves.


Hostel Tours

Image of several travellers together on a tour in the city

Many hostels either have their own tour agency or they will partner will other agencies to offer well-priced tours. You can join many of the free city walking tours that have started to become super popular amongst budget travellers (although the guide is technically working for tips!)

You will likely avoid many of the tourist traps without missing any major sights and you normally end up grabbing lunch/dinner and a beer with your new travel buddies at the end!


Long Term Stays

Many hostels are set up for long-term stays which is ideal for those looking to hang around for a while. This is especially useful for anyone who has found work or digital nomads.

If you really love your hostel you just need to ask the owner or receptionist if they can extend your stay. You may be able to strike a deal which can cost you less than what you paid online


Cheap Eats

Back to saving money now. If your hostel has a cafe or restaurant attached, you can be sure that you’ll be fed well while not spending too much of your budget. Hostel restaurants always offer cheap food and sometimes snacks and drinks. Take advantage of any free breakfasts that may be included in your stay.

If your hostel doesn’t have a restaurant attached, they might have a partnership with one of the local eateries close by. They could have the same owner which means they’ll know you’re a budget traveller and you will be well catered for.

I’ve had stays where the hostel gives out tokens which can be exchanged for breakfast in local eateries. Make sure you go for any kind of meal deals or set menus hostel restaurants may offer. These are usually tasty and filling (as well as kind to your wallet!)


Hostel Bars

Let’s face it, most of us want to travel cheaply but still have the odd evening that includes having a beer or two (or seven.) If you’re lucky, your hostel will have a bar! One of the many advantages of staying in a hostel with its own bar is that they have cheap drinks. This is usually combined with some kind of happy hour (which is normally two or three hours) and/or an event night. Think pub quiz or theme night.


Nightlife

Some of the best nights out I’ve had on my travels have been on bar crawls/nights out organised by the hostel. You get taken to some of the best spots and there are plenty of discounted drinks and free shots along the way.

This is, of course, a great way to meet more new friends as you’ll be in a group environment with fellow travellers who are also looking for a good time. Just remember to stay with the group as you don’t want to get lost in an unknown city by yourself.

You’ll have to check out the hostel on Hostelworld to see if they’re the kind of place that would organise such a social gathering. In my experience, most hostels based in major cities that have decent nightlife are likely to offer group nights out


Worst Things About Staying In A Hostel (And How To Deal With Them)

image of a kitchen sink full of dirty dishes

Not everything about staying in a hostel is positive!

While these things may sound negative they are not co. Remember, some of the supposed nicer hotels often get complaints or bad reviews.

  • Location – I’ve mentioned this before and now you know how important it is. After a day of exploring or a few drinks in the evening, you do not want to be figuring out how to get back to that hostel located 20km outside of the city!
  • Needing the toilet at 4 am – this happens to the best of us. Don’t be ashamed of wandering to the toilet in your pyjamas. You can always put something to cover yourself up with under your pillow.
  • The ‘I’ve done everything’ guy/girl – you’ll meet this person soon enough on your travels. Wherever you’ve been, they’ve been there and done it better. It’s easy to avoid these people, just talk to someone else!
  • Other people having sex – not only is this something you don’t want to hear or see but there’s also that slight hint of jealousy that it’s not you getting any action!
  • Sick people, getting sick – sooner or later, you will succumb to some kind of travel-related sickness. It messes with your plans, your body and (most likely) your ass!
  • Extra fees – always check the small print when booking your hostel. Sometimes those towels cost more than you think!

My Best Tips For Staying In a Hostel

Images of two girls talking on a bunk bed

1. Bring flip-flops

Chances are, you’ll be living in flip flops (or thongs, or jandals) during your travels if you’re staying in warm countries. Since you’ll most likely be using shared bathrooms during your stay, it’s likely that the floor will be wet from others showering. Sure you can take your normal shoes but why get them wet?

Flip-flops are also useful for private bathrooms and even many hotels in developing countries. Many showers in budget hotels do have bathtubs or shower cubicles so water will literally cover the whole floor.


2. Don’t be Shy

Ok, so I’m not expecting you to say hi to all your new rooms and talk about all your personal issues. However, saying hi with a smile to someone who looks like they might say hi back could be the start of a new friendship. It’s surely better than being in a room where no one talks to each other.


3. Bring padlocks

Padlocks are an essential item for staying safe in hostels. It’s easy to say nothing ever gets stolen and that you can trust everyone you’re sharing a room with. In most instances, that’s the case. But it’s always good to know that your personal possessions are safe, even if it’s just for peace of mind.

Most decent hostels offer lockers, some even big enough for your whole backpack. Just remember to bring a spare lock (I prefer the ones with a number combination.) If you’re concerned about things like passports, some reception areas have a safe that is guarded 24/7.


4. Book Early

This is not normally something you would need to worry about but it all depends on the purpose of your stay. Do you want to stay on Bondi Beach in Sydney for New Year’s Eve or a nice beach stay for the Full Moon Party in Thailand? You better plan and book that stay as early as you can!

These types of stays often have a minimum requirement of nights you need to stay. It could be two or three nights. Price-wise, you can certainly save when booking in advance but it’s difficult to say if you would get a better price on new year celebrations or cultural events. These prices are usually fixed.


5. Bring A microfibre towel

Your hostel may or may not provide towels but it’s always a good idea to take your own. I’ve never travelled without my trusty microfibre towel. It’s one of the first things I pack! It rolls into a tiny fraction of a normal size towel and is quite absorbent!

If your hostel does provide towels you can always take your microfibre towel to the pool or beach. Just remember to wash it once in a while.


6. Clean Up Your Dishes

Nobody likes a messy guest. If you’ve used the communal kitchen and left your dishes everywhere, you need to clean that shit up!

People will appreciate that you’re not a messy pig who wasn’t taught how to look after themselves. If you get singled out as the messy one you find that it’s not as easy to make friends as you think.


7. Pack The Night Before

Preparation is always key to a stress-free stay. Or anything else! When moving city/country or going on day trips it’s always better to plan and pack what you need the day before. This way you’re not disturbing or waking anyone at night. This is good advice when you share a room with ten others or more. You don’t want to be the person who flips on the light switch at 3 am!


8. Spray Outside!

If you need t spray some kind of aerosol deodorant or even mosquito spray, do it outside of your dorm room. Nobody wants that initial strong small stinging their nostrils. Worse yet, you may set off somebodies allergic reaction.


9. Eyemasks and Earplugs

If you’re a light sleeper then these may be your life savers! They’re cheap and reusable and you’ll wonder how you lived without them as you sleep through the drunken snorer keeping everyone else awake.


10. Leave The Valuables At Home

I’ve mentioned theft before in this post and while the majority of hostel stays go without incident, there is, unfortunately, the occasional theft in the hostel.

You can avoid this by not bringing your most expensive jewellery or clothes or unnecessary tech with you. No one cares if you have the nicest bling or the most expensive jacket or jeans. The only person bothered is that opportunist that will be eyeing up your gear.

And I’m not just talking about your fellow traveller either. If you go out in a city where tourists don’t normally venture there’s always a chance you’ll be targeted. Make it difficult for them!


11. Be Respectful Of Others

Just because you’re in the mood for a chat or party, doesn’t mean everyone is else. People in hostels are at various stages of their travel journey. Some may be hungover, tired, sad or even homesick. Try to read the room before engaging in conversation.

This may also be the first time you’ve met someone from another country or another culture. Maybe even another village? Embrace each other’s differences. This is a great chance to learn from other travellers and get a glimpse of what life is like in their country, not just the country you’re in.


12. Just Enjoy It

You may or may not have intended on staying in hostels but you should definitely embrace it. Learn to be social and you’ll love the experience whilst also learning about yourself! Follow these tips and you’ll soon love it!


FAQs: Are Hostels Safe?

I’ve told you just about all I know about hostels and hostel safety. These FAQs should just about cover what’s left to know about the subject.

Are Hostels Generally Safe?

Yes, hostels are generally safe. You should not need to worry about your personal safety or your possessions but you should certainly keep your wits about you. Most people who stay in a hostel are in the same position as you.


Can Couples Sleep Together In Hostels?

Yes, it’s acceptable for couples to stay together in hostels but be aware that rooms usually have bunk beds and sexual relations are not encouraged. Other guests have paid to stay in a dorm room and should be respected. There are always double rooms available in hostels.


Is Your Stuff Safe In A hostel?

As long as you don’t travel with excessive jewellery or gadgets then your stuff should be safe in a hostel. Always be aware of thieves even in a hostel setting! Use the lockers provided and leave your expensive watch, or tablet at home.


Is It Better To Stay In A Hostel Or Hotel?

This would be a personal choice and be dependent on your travel style. Hostels are for the budget-conscious and young-at-heart looking to meet others while hotels can offer more privacy and a little (or a lot) more luxury.


Wrapping Up: Are Hostel Safe?

Image of two backpackers arriving at a hostel

There you have it – everything I know about hostels and hostel safety. As you can tell, I believe hostels are very safe and I have nothing but good things to say about them.

The best thing to do if you’re still having concerns about staying in hostels is just book one night in a private. It may be a little awkward at first but everything is if you’ve never tried it before. Even if you don’t stay in a dorm you’ll find the vibe so chilled and welcoming.

Before long you’ll be hopping from hostel to hostel, city to city in no time. Along the way, you’ll make some awesome friends, have incredible experiences and learn a lot about yourself too.

Just remember to keep your wits about you, stay open-minded and remember that probably everyone at that hostel would’ve been in your position at some point!

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