Are hostels dangerous? Finding safe properties for your gap year

Capsule hostel beds in a row and text that reads "are hostels dangerous"

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Like anything, if you’ve never experienced hostels you might be wondering if they are dangerous. There are misconceptions and ideas that all hostels as seedy, creepy places filled with thieves or negative people. But that’s simply not the case.

Of course, if you don’t do your research, you might end up staying in hostels that are not as safe as others, but that doesn’t mean they are all unsafe.

I have spent years staying in hostels around the world as there are so many benefits to staying in them as a solo, budget traveller and I’ve had pretty much every experience imaginable. If I had to guess, I’ve likely stayed in over 150 hostels since I started my travel journey in 2015 and I’ve maybe felt unsafe in 2 of them.

Those are some pretty great odds if you ask me!

All I want to do during this article is answer the two questions “Are hostels dangerous?” and “Are any hostels safe?” And how to successfully find hostels that take safety seriously so you can relax and instead focus on enjoying your trip.

Don’t forget to get travel insurance to cover you if something bad happens. One company I have personal experience with is Safety Wing. Not everyone needs the same coverage, so make sure you get a personalised quote that suits you and your trip plans.

In order to stay connected during your trip, it’s advisable to get a SIM card with data connection. The easiest way to do this is to order an eSIM through Airalo that can be downloaded directly onto your phone.

Need to book a Hostel?

For the biggest collection of hostels, visit HostelWorld. They have a fantastic filtering system that allows you to find the features you’re looking for in your next accommodation so you can successfully find places to stay that you’re most comfortable in.

Make sure to read during your booking whether you need to pay in full online, or in full on arrival to the property. If you need to pay in person you may need to transfer some cash into local currency. You can do this using the Wise app. With competitive rates and a simple-to-use service, you can exchange currency easily.

A screenshot from the Hostelworld platform with a map and list of properties available for booking - Are hostels dangerous?
This is a screenshot of the map feature on the HostelWorld platform.

Hostel locations

Rule number one of any accommodation is don’t choose the place that’s down a shady alleyway in a crime-filled neighbourhood. If you do this, then you could be putting yourself into a dangerous situation by picking hostels in an unsavoury part of town. The great news is that the majority of hostels you’ll likely come across are in popular tourist areas close to major attractions.

This means you’re highly unlikely to find a hostel in a shady neighbourhood. To give yourself the best chance to find hostels in good locations, use the address and map features available on the booking platforms. By checking the neighbourhood online you can get an idea of how safe the general area is before agreeing to book the accommodation. It’s a great way to choose hostels in highly recommended areas.

Prioritise Security

When it comes to finding safe properties to stay in during your trip, you should look at the specific security measures each hostel takes. Of course, some hostels take security more seriously than others but that’s why you should compare properties before making a booking. For some larger hostels, they will have a staff member monitoring the entrance to make sure only guests are entering the property.

Other times the hostel will require key cards and locks on entrances and individual rooms so that no unauthorised guests can enter the facility. Security is a hugely important feature to consider when wondering if hostels are dangerous or safe. knowing what measures are in place before you stay can put your mind at ease.

graphic of 5 star rating

Consider ratings and reviews

If you’ve ever purchased goods or services online, you’ve likely come across a review system. When it comes to deciding if all hostels are dangerous or not, you should look at the reviews and ratings for each property before making a booking.

On platforms like HostelWorld and Booking, each property listed has reviews left by previous guests. If there are any security features a property is lacking, the reviews will surely let you know so that you can decide if you want to stay there. If there are ever any issues with a property that made past guests feel unsafe or uncomfortable, the reviews will say so. As well as the reviews there are ratings for different things such as cleanliness and location which will also aid in helping to book a place to stay.

Dorm arrangements

When it comes to choosing a hostel, you should consider the different room types. Many hostels offer dormitory-style rooms which means you will be sharing a room with other guests. Although this may be concerning for some people, this doesn’t mean that all hostels that offer dorm rooms are dangerous. It is simply a low-cost room option for travellers on a tight budget.

If you are uncomfortable sharing a dorm room, many hostels have the option to choose a private room for a slightly high cost. In the hostels that don’t have private room availability, you’ll be pleased to know they often have the chance to choose between a mixed dorm or a same-sex dorm. This can – at the very least – give people the peace of mind that they’re sharing a room with people of the same sex.

Staff and authority

Another way to determine whether hostels are safe or whether a place is dangerous is to see what the staff situation is like. Are there staff on the reception desk available for a limited time or can you get a hold of them at all hours? When you have staff that are maintaining order throughout your stay they’ll be able to enforce rules to all guests.

This keeps all guests in check and allows people to have faith that bad people will be dealt with and removed from the property where necessary. If you’ve ever stayed in a hostel you’ve probably felt the most comfortable when you know you have staff available for any issues and can make you feel safe. To feel the most at ease, opt to stay in the hostels that have 247 receptions.

exit sign with a stick man and some stairs - something that should give peace of mind when asking are hostels dangerous
Photo by Bernard Hermant

Emergency procedures

Although emergency procedures might not cross your mind, they’re certainly something you should pay attention to when checking into accommodation. This could include if they have clearly marked fire exits, fire alarms and or sprinkler systems for example. When trying to determine if hostels are dangerous or not, these are the features you should look at in case there is an emergency.

A property would be deemed unsafe if it didn’t have any of these procedures in place. When you consider what type of emergencies could take place (fires, flooding etc) not having anything to guide people out of the property in the sight of danger, would make hostels dangerous.

Secure your valuables

If you’re expecting to stay in dormitory-style rooms, you will likely be wondering how to keep your belongings safe. In the initial booking phase of your trip, you can use the websites to determine if a hostel has lockers or safety deposit boxes for you to use. In some hostels, the lockers are large enough for your entire bag or all your luggage. Other times they may only be big enough for your small valuables.

A hostel isn’t necessarily dangerous if it doesn’t have lockers but it wouldn’t be the most ideal situation since you don’t know who you’ll be sharing a room with. The reviews will let you know if lockers are available and the general hostel description should help you prepare. Also, not every hostel provides a padlock so you should always try to carry one with you for peace of mind!

Be aware of social settings

So, you’ve already chosen hostels that tick all the safe boxes of a great location and security features and you’re part way through the trip. How do you know if the people you’re sharing the accommodation with are okay to be around? Well, like with any public place you go to, you should avoid talking about any personal identity information just in case.

You should avoid reading card numbers or banking information on phone calls or with friends because someone with ill intent could be listening. But this isn’t an isolated tip just for hostels, as realistically, these are things you should keep to yourself regardless of where you are.

Are hostels dangerous? The answer is no!

Even if there are some unsafe hostels in a few places worldwide, there are so many things you can do to lessen your chances of coming across one. By doing a little bit of research before you book anywhere you’ll be able to find safe hostels that are not dangerous, that allow you to just enjoy the trip at hand.

Trust me, hostels may not be the most luxurious and there are some disadvantages to staying in them, but they’re one of the most sociable options if you’re looking to meet other travellers.

Go on, give them a try.

Need help planning your trip?

Check out how to plan a trip abroad & see my travel resources for more.

WayAway – Great for booking flights. They even have a cashback feature for those who fly frequently.
Skyscanner – A comprehensive comparison website showing where to purchase flights.
HostelWorld – The biggest selection of hostels & sociable accommodations.
Booking.com – The largest collection of accommodations worldwide.

Safety Wing – A travel insurance brand for long-term travellers and nomads.

Airalo – An eSIM card company that lets you stay connected during your trip.
Wise – Perfect for transferring foreign currencies.
iVisa – For applying for tourist and visitor visas.

Viator – Great for finding tours and activities worldwide.
Get Your Guide – Another company for finding activities.
Klook – Have some of the best activity deals in Asia.

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