Hostel Friends - How Hostels Work - Are Hostels Safe - Are Hostels Dangerous

Are Hostels Safe? Are Hostels Dangerous? Everything You Need To Know!

In the realm of backpack traveling, hostels are a popular choice when it comes to accommodations. Years ago, hostels were associated primarily with budget backpackers (one of the five different types of Travel Backpackers), but recently hostels have undergone a transformation, evolving into vibrant hubs of social interaction, cultural exchange, remote work, and, most importantly, safety.

I remember my first stay at a hostel back in 2010, hostels were nothing special at all. Just low-budget accommodation for you to crash in. Nowadays, hostels are so much more than that. This is due to many things such as the ease of working remotely and to a new generation of travelers that prioritizes experiences over things.

New Backpackers : Everything You Need to Know About Staying In Hostels Before You Go

For those embarking on their first hostel adventure, the prospect can be both exhilarating and daunting. To ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience, here are some essential tips and guidelines to keep in mind:

Pack Smart

Hostel living often entails sharing space with fellow travelers, so it's important to pack considerately. If you plan on staying in a dormitory at a hostel, opt for compact, lightweight bags that can be easily stowed in lockers or under bunk beds. Additionally, packing essentials such as a padlock, earplugs, and sleep eye mask. You can check out our full Hostel Packing Guide.

Respect House Rules

Every hostel has its own set of rules and guidelines designed to ensure a harmonious living environment for all guests. Common rules include quiet hours, no-smoking policies, and cleanliness standards. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the hostel's rules upon check-in and adhere to them throughout your stay.

In additional to house rules, there are unwritten hostel dormitory norms that all Travel Backpackers should follow:

1. Treat "Quiet Hours" also as "Lights Out Hours".
2. Pack your bags at a reasonable hour.
3. Keep sexy time private.
4. If there isn't a kitchen, don't cook in the bedroom.
5. Keep your belongings contained.
6. Don't wake up your roommates with a loud conversation.
7. Set yourself up for a quick return to bed.
8. Don't snooze your alarm.
9. Say hello.
10. Be friendly and don't talk politics.

I feel a little need to dive deeper into two of these unwritten hostel norms (#7 and #10)

Preparing for a quick return to bed means having your stuff ready so you can easily go to the bathroom and then go to bed. A dormitory is for sleeping. You should try to avoid as much as possible as going back and forth to the lockers or zipping bags when people are trying to sleep. Maybe get in a routine of laying out any toiletry bagwater bottle, or sleep eye mask on your bed before going out for dinner. Therefore they are ready for you when you're heading to bed.

Be friendly and don't talk politics while staying at hostels. Travelers often get caught in comparing countries and cultural differences while they travel. Which is awesome until it comes to politics and divisive issues. Just be friendly and avoid talking about those topics.

Embrace Social Opportunities

One of the greatest joys of hostel life is the opportunity to connect with fellow travelers from around the world. Take advantage of communal spaces such as common rooms, kitchen facilities, and organized activities to strike up conversations, share travel tips, and forge new friendships. Remember, at least 90% of people staying at a hostel are solo travelers; befriend them!

Stay Open-Minded

Hostel living offers a glimpse into the rich tapestry of global culture, with guests hailing from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Approach each interaction with an open mind and a spirit of curiosity, embracing the opportunity to learn from others and broaden your horizons.

As an American, one thing that I always like to share about my country is how it functions more similarly to the European Union than one country. People are always surprised when they find out that a lawyer in New York can't practice Texas law. Or how the cuisine in Louisiana is different from the cuisine in Maine. Or how NYC is a 6.5 hour flight to Los Angeles and I don't know what there is to do in LA. What do you like to share about where you come from?

Top Hostel Chains

Selina 

North America, South America, & Europe. Best for digital nomads looking for top notch remote work facilities. 

OneFam 

Europe. Best for travelers looking to party and meet new people.

Generator 

North America & Europe. Known for stylish design and awesome amenities.

HI (Hosteling International) 

Worldwide. Known for being the largest hostel chain with locations in over 80 countries!

Nomads 

Australia & New Zealand. Best for solo travelers with their very social atmosphere.

Safestay 

Europe. Known for unique accommodations in historic buildings such as castles and mansions.

My personal favorite hostel is not apart of a chain but I had to make sure I included it on this blog. My all-time favorite hostel in the world is HOME Hostel in Lisbon, Portugal. For a family owned business, this place is a quite big. The best part of it is Mamma's Dinner. For just 10 euros, you can get a home-cooked meal made by the owner (a lovely Portuguese grandmother). What a fantastic way to meet other travelers, enjoy an authentic meal, and save money by enjoying this 3 course meal!

 

Are Hostels Safe? Are Hostels Dangerous?

In short: Yes, hostels are safe. No, hostels aren't dangerous. Period.

One of the most persistent misconceptions surrounding hostels is that they are unsafe. This stereotype couldn't be further from the truth. Maybe we are told this by the Boomer Generation but in reality, hostels prioritize the safety and security of their guests through a variety of measures.

I must have stayed in over 100 hostels over the years. Never once have I felt unsafe. In fact, if I am solo traveling, I feel more safe staying in a hostel with other solo travelers than in other types of accommodations alone. With that said, I have heard a few stories on Instagram of people getting some things stolen so it is always important to stay vigilant. Getting something stolen is very uncommon. I have never met anyway personally get something stolen inside of a hostel. However, I have met many travelers getting pickpocketed by simply walking around a foreign city with their guard down. Also remember, people only post about the most wild stories on Instagram. No Instagram Reel about people working remotely at hostel or playing cards is going to go viral.

So stop asking: Are hostels safe in Europe? Yes. Are hostels safe in Asia? Yes. Can hostels be dangerous? Not any of the 100+ hostels that I have stayed at were dangerous. I think you can see my point here. 

Trained Staff (Awesome People!)

Hostel staff is typically well-trained and attentive, ensuring that guests feel secure throughout their stay. Staff members are available to address any concerns and provide assistance if needed. Most hostels even have volunteers (backpacker volunteers) that live on-site and can offer a helping hand. I have seen Backpacker Volunteers that work at hostels usually there to improve a foreign language, learn management skills, teach classes such as yoga or cooking, or host walking tours.

Back to safety, I remember one encounter I had at a hostel in Barcelona where there was a drunk man (not a guest) acting chaotically (on drugs) on the street right outside the hostel main door. The hostel worker locked our front door and called the cops. Even though the worker was originally from Ireland and didn't speak much Spanish, she was well trained on how to act and who to call. Shout out to OneFam for the amazing staff!

Secure Accommodations

Most hostels offer a range of accommodation options, including dormitory-style rooms and private rooms. While dormitories involve sharing a space with fellow travelers, modern hostels prioritize individual security with lockers, keycard access, and sometimes even private curtains for added privacy. Whether it is access to the main doors or bedrooms, you can expect there to be an access code, a keyfob, or an actual lock and key.

One thing is for sure, definitely bring one or two Cable Combination Locks. You'll need this for your locker or if you have any extra bags hanging around.

Community

The communal nature of hostels fosters a sense of camaraderie among guests, creating a supportive environment where travelers look out for one another. This sense of community acts as an additional layer of security, with fellow guests often willing to offer advice, share experiences, and lend a helping hand. Also remember, there is simply security in numbers. 

Technology

Many hostels have embraced technology to enhance security, implementing features such as CCTV surveillance, electronic keycard systems, and secure Wi-Fi networks. These technological advancements provide peace of mind for guests, knowing that their belongings and personal information are safeguarded.

If you are still worried about safety in a hostel, my advice for you would be to start slow. Book a private room at a hostel so you can see how they work. Bring a portable door lock if you need to your private room. You'll soon notice that a hostel dormitory is safe and actually quite fun.

The Booming Hostel Industry

The hostel industry has experienced exponential growth in recent years, fueled by shifting travel trends. What was once a niche market catering primarily to budget backpackers has evolved into a diverse ecosystem catering to travelers of all ages and travelers. Here are some key factors driving the expansion of the hostel industry:

Changing Traveler Demographics

While hostels were once synonymous with young budget backpackers, today's guests encompass a much broader demographic spectrum. Families, solo travelers, digital nomads, and even seniors are now embracing the hostel experience, drawn by its social atmosphere and unique amenities.

Always check the reviews before booking a hostel. You'll want to make sure the hostel has the vibe you are looking for. Websites like Hostel World or Booking.com are best for backpack travelers that are looking to stay at a hostel.

Rise of Digital Nomadism

Remote work and digital nomadism has created a new breed of travelers seeking flexible accommodations that cater to their lifestyle. Many hostels have adapted to this trend by offering co-working spaces, secure high-speed internet access, and networking opportunities with other digital nomads.

Sustainable Tourism

As eco-consciousness continues to grow, travelers are increasingly seeking accommodations that prioritize sustainability and environmental responsibility. Hostels, with their emphasis on communal living, resource sharing, and local engagement, align closely with the principles of sustainable tourism, attracting environmentally conscious travelers seeking authentic experiences with a minimal ecological footprint.

Unique Offerings

Hostels have diversified their offerings beyond traditional accommodations, incorporating unique experiences such as cultural workshops, guided tours, cooking classes, and community outreach programs. Not to mention the occasional beer pong tournament or karaoke. These experiential offerings add value to the guest experience, fostering cultural immersion, personal growth, and memorable encounters with locals and fellow travelers alike.

I have such fond memories from staying at hostels and embracing their activities. From a ceviche cooking class in Colombia to yoga classes in Spain. So, whether you're a seasoned backpacker or a first-time adventurer, consider stepping out of your comfort zone and immersing yourself in the world of hostels."Who knows? Your next great adventure may be just a bunk bed away.

 

WRITTEN BY

MARK CIPOLLINA

I’m Mark, the Founder of Generation Nomad, Avid Travel Backpacker & Digital Nomad. I am passionate about helping others discover the world through my experiences. I solo backpacked for months at a time, lived abroad, and even speak two foreign languages. Besides collaborating on the best lightweight travel accessories for Travel Backpackers, I also love sharing my travel photography.
Favorite Trips: Spain, Egypt & Vietnam 
Favorite Cuisines: Italian, Peruvian & Japanese
Quote: “Be a circle and just roll with it” 
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