I recently asked my Instagram followers what prevents them from travelling alone and the most common reply was a fear for personal safety. “Are hostels safe in Europe?“ and “Should I stay in a hostel alone?“ are questions I also get a lot by email, so I thought I’d address it right here on the blog.
Because let’s face it, the thought of sleeping in a room with strangers from around the world is nerve-wracking. Especially if you’re staying in a hostel for the first time. Raised with the concept of stranger danger, it can seem like a crazy idea to spend nights alone amongst travellers you know nothing about.
So the next time someone asks me “Are hostels safe?” – this is what my answer will be…
Are Hostels Safe in Europe?
I honestly believe that you are as safe in a hostel as you are in any other form of accommodation, be it AirBNB or hotels. Whilst there are some hostels that may be less secure and rundown, or run by people who don’t care about their guests, this will become obvious in the reviews as hostels you should avoid.
And the rest of the hostels in Europe are home to the hostel community, who make me feel far safer than being entirely alone in a hotel or apartment.
Who Stays in Hostels?
If you’re already considering staying in hostels, then you’ll find that travellers in the hostel community are just like you; open-minded budget travellers who enjoy new experiences and like meeting new people.
The likelihood is that when you walk into a shared room, the last thing on your mind is stealing from or attacking your room-mates? Right?
I hope so! So why do you think your room-mates would consider doing the same to you?
The Hostel Blacklist
On rare occasions you’ll find that some people will have bad intentions. But you should also know that hostel owners talk about these people.
If someone steals from one hostel or threatens other guests, the staff will often pass the name of the traveller onto other hostel staff or add it to a blacklist to prevent them checking-in to hostels in the future.
And now, especially for those of you who plan on staying in a hostel for the first time or for women travelling solo, here are my top personal safety tips…
Personal Safety Tips For Staying in Hostels
Trust Your Instinct
Meeting new people is by far one of the reasons I love hostels so much. I’ve made incredible friendships and lived incredible experiences that never would have taken place if I hadn’t stayed in hostels.
But, whilst it’s been a rare experience for me, there may be times you end up in a room full of people that make you uncomfortable. Perhaps they don’t mean to, or perhaps they do, but if you feel you can’t trust your hostel dorm mates, make sure to trust the hostel staff. Many of them will have seen the worst and best of travellers and won’t want to put their guests in danger.
This often goes for girls who find themselves sleeping solo in a room of boys who intimidate or harass them. Again this is rare and I’ve often found that certain men who I was initially unsure of turned out to be completely harmless. But if it does happen that you are in a situation that your instinct is uncomfortable with, ask reception if there are any spare beds elsewhere in the hostel.
If you want to read more on this, I’ve spoken about it before in this post: Are mixed dorms appropriate for solo female travel?
Research the hostel location
It can be hard to know if a hostel’s location is in a safe neighbourhood or not. The best way is to Google “dangerous areas of London/Paris/etc…” and then see if your short listed hostels are located in those districts.
If you do end up staying in a neighbourhood that makes you feel unsafe, know that you can always move hostels (your safety is more important than the cancellation fees). Alternatively, you can avoid walking alone late at night by taking group pub crawls from the hostel and/or exploring the city after dark with a group of friends made in the hostel.
Arrive at the hostel before dark
You’ve done your hostel location research, but fears for safety always intensify after dark no matter whether your neighbourhood is safe or not. But most importantly, some hostels are tucked away down side streets and without large signs, which can make finding them quite a mission!
If you’re like me and someone that gets lost easily then I definitely advise trying to arrive before dark. I love Amsterdam and have no problem being alone in the city after dark these days. But when I first moved there I got lost in the Red Light District for two hours at night and whilst nothing happened, I was still so relieved to find my way out of it!
I really hate that I’m having to write this – mainly because of the way in which a drinking culture is so often used as an excuse for rape culture. So before I go any further, I believe that the perpetrator in every assault is entirely to blame and not the victim for what they may be wearing, drinking, or saying.
But I’m suggesting that you drink responsibly because losing your inhibitions and getting flat-out wasted can create a few scenarios:
- Being drunk can make you appear weaker to fight off potential harassment. If someone wants to attack you, you come across like an easier target when you’re stumbling around alone at night.
- Being drunk can make you weaker. If you’re so drunk you can’t walk, you’ll find it a lot harder to fight someone off you or your belongings.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve been guilty plenty of times of having a few too many shots. When I’m alone with new hostel mates I don’t know so well I take it slower, but I’m quick to trust and have
probably definitely stumbled around my hostel room and slumped into my bunk after a night out.
But if someone decided to think that it would be okay to rob me or put their penis anywhere near me while I’m in that state it would still be their fault. I just prefer to be a bit more cautious these days incase I need to punch anyone that tries.
Know where your nearest embassy is
In the event that you do experience an attack on your personal safety, whether sexually or otherwise, heading straight to your Embassy can provide you with a safe space to discuss the events.
GoAbroad.com have a great list of worldwide embassies and it may help you to feel more prepared if you write down the addresses and phone numbers of those embassies in the cities you’re planning to visit.
Women-only rooms and/or hostels
For those girls that feel really unsafe staying in a mixed-dorm, there are hostels out there that offer female-only dormitory rooms. These are shared rooms in which men are not allowed to book or enter at any time – even if they are with a female friend.
I hope that this settles the nerves of those of you who are new to hostel travel or wondering if hostels are safe spaces for backpackers!
Comment below if you have any personal safety tips of your own! And if you’re a backpacker who’s been asked “Are hostels safe?” – why not forward this to your friends and family?!
Lots of love,