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Traveling alone as a woman can be incredibly freeing and exciting, but you still need to keep your wits about you to remain safe and happy. Are hostels safe? Here are our tips for women staying in hostels!
Are Hostels Safe?
Written By: Kate Langille
I like to travel while staying in budget accommodations so I’m able to splurge on restaurants, museums, and entrances to historic sites. I’ve stayed in some pretty terrible places that could have ruined my trip, but I’ve always come away with the best stories from staying in hostels, bed & breakfasts, and budget hotels.
“Europe Budget” and what westerners call “budget” are two different things. Think way smaller and with fewer perks. We’re talking no towels, no soap, and not even hangers!
Read these tips on what to pack if traveling on a budget!
What is a hostel vs hotel?
A hostel is shared dorm accommodation between you and other travelers while hotels offer private rooms. Hostels are cheaper and tend to attract a younger demographic while hotels are more appealing for adults that want a private, comfortable experience.
A hostel is more budget-friendly because there are more travelers in less space using a dorm room concept. Some hostels are small and start at four people per dorm room whereas larger hostels can have up to fifty people on an extremely large space.
Some dorm rooms have ensuite bathrooms where others have large shared bathroom facilities (usually separated by male and female). Less expensive hostels don’t include sheets and towels.
Read this list of things to bring when staying at a hostel!
The benefits of staying at a hostel are the social atmosphere, lower costs, and better amenities. If you are a solo traveler, you can easily make new friends and travel buddies, which is one of the most memorable aspects of the solo travel experience.
Even though a hotel costs more money, they don’t offer the same free amenities as hostels. Ranging from $5-$50 a night for one bed, many hostels include free wifi, free breakfast, laundry facilities, travel booking services, and the opportunity to meet people.
If you like the idea of a social atmosphere but don’t feel comfortable staying in a dorm, some hostels offer private rooms, too! You get the best of both worlds!
Are hostels safe?
Generally speaking, hostels are incredibly safe but there are various things you can do to ensure you have a good experience such as drinking responsibly, being respectful of dorm mates, locking your valuables, and packing wisely.
Nowadays, there are many boutique hotel-like hostels available. They’re newer, bigger, cleaner, and cost a little more. The goods news is that there’s something suitable for everyone, just do your research to choose the perfect one.
Use this portable closet to feel at home, anywhere you go!
Always read the reviews before booking to get the best idea if the hostel is right for you. Some are quiet and family friendly while others are known for their party atmosphere.
You can also book a private room in some hostels and we recommend this as opposed to staying at an Airbnb on your own. Airbnb’s may be nice but they don’t offer the opportunity to connect with other travelers, which can really elevate your travel experience.
If you’re traveling with another person, it might be cheaper to stay at an Airbnb but if you’re alone, a hostel is more cost effective and fun, too. Hey, if you and your travel mate are looking to meet others, you may opt to stay at a hostel regardless.
We recommend booking through hostelworld.com or hostelbookers.com.
I’ve seen it all while staying within my budget, and I’m here to give you my best tips for a comfortable hostel stay.
General Safety and Mingling
If you’re traveling with valuables, electronics, or are staying in a small to large dorm-style room with upwards of 15 beds per room, always make use of the lockers. Never leave anything of value on your bed, even for a moment.
While I’ve never been a victim of theft in a hostel (except for refrigerator items), I’ve met people on my travels who’ve been robbed of all their cash or passport in the hostel–by a bunkmate, no less. It’s usually one person targeting the unlucky few. (This is a very rare occurrence but it’s better to be safe than sorry.)
Find a thin, steel cable cord to lock your bag to a post at times you may fall asleep on a train or when you have to leave your bag unattended. Inside a hostel room, lock your backpack and have an additional lock on you in case there are lockers as well.
Tip: bring a thin lock because a thick one won’t fit in all lockers.
I personally prefer to stay in an all-female dorm room when given the option but many women don’t mind the co-ed dorms. I haven’t been a victim of crime and in general, you shouldn’t feel afraid. Hostels are fun and welcoming while offering many amenities that hotels do not!
However, I have been in some strange, shall we say…situations while staying in a co-ed dorm.
What I find odd and unusual may be potentially threatening to others. Solo female travelers are often afraid because of the horror stories that gain traction through word of mouth, and most of all online. So, to ease your mind, search for a hostel with all-female dorms; there are plenty.
Here are additional safety tips for female travelers!
Compass Rose RFID Secret Bra Wallet
Get your head out of your iPhone, tablet, or laptop and socialize!
Find free opportunities to socialize and meet male and female travelers in a group setting in the common areas during walking tours, happy hours, or trivia nights a hostel may provide. Free tours (like the ones by New Europe) are my favorite way of getting to know a city. They’re usually even better than the paid tours just be sure to tip your guide at the end.
On that note, make friends with other travelers and sightsee in groups as it’s all part of the fun and makes for a more interesting “solo” travel experience. If you travel alone, let the front desk or someone back home know where you are going and when you’ll be back.
Arrive at your hostel during the day, especially in unsafe or unfamiliar cities. Have your confirmation number and booking information written down to show the person at the front desk who may or may not speak English or your native language.
Don’t dress provocatively if you’re completely alone. It’s best to blend with local dress and customs, so check out TFG’s packing lists for what to wear to various locations around the globe.
Use your gut and be wary of unsolicited advice. Avoid flippantly telling people where you’re staying.
Check out our favorite anti-theft accessories and money belts!
Health & Beauty
Hanging toiletry cases are an item you never knew you needed until trying to perform your beauty routine in a locker room type shower stall! Toiletry cases come in all price ranges, sizes, and colors, so do yourself a solid and pick one up.
What’s the best hanging toiletry case? Find out!
Bring only essential toiletries. If there’s anything you end up needing, it can be purchased locally. Personally, I don’t budge on hair care and skin care, but I’ll leave my insect repellant at home because I know I can find numerous places to pick it up.
The same goes for medical supplies like extra adhesive bandages, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. I pack a small first aid kit with a couple bandaids, two individual blister packs of motion sickness medicine, and a small bottle of ibuprofen, and I’ll restock on the road if necessary.
Use these travel containers to bring all your beauty essentials!
Drawstring Bag I Menstrual Cup
Have a reusable bag for a change of clothes to take to and from your locker to the shower. A spare grocery bag is handy for so many other uses while you travel.
Bring birth control. I’m talking your regular method (pill, ring, patch, etc). If you’re a long-term traveler, it might be worth considering a long-lasting contraceptive like a shot, IUD, or Norplant implant.
Bring at least one day worth of tampons or pads, or switch to the cost-friendly and environmentally-friendly menstrual cup.
Read about the pros and cons of using a menstrual cup?
Bring or buy disposable flip-flops or rubber sandals for the shower. Heed my advice: on my first backpacking trip I forgot my sandals and ended up with a nasty souvenir on my foot.
For more versatility, try one of these cute women’s flip flops!
Earplugs I Flashlight I Eye Mask
Bring a flashlight or use the light on your phone instead of flipping on the light and waking up other dorm mates at night. On that note, you may benefit from earplugs and an eye mask if you’re a light sleeper or easily enraged upon early waking like I am!
Here are three reasons why headlamps are essential for budget travel!
Having a power strip, if you’re an outlet hog like I am, will not only win you points with your travel and dorm mates, it will also cut down on time waiting for an open outlet to plug in and charge your items, blow dry, or flat iron your hair.
You can buy a cheap one on your travels, or be sure it is dual voltage with a plug adapter for the region you’re in.
Find out how the importance between voltage converters and travel adapters!
Share your stuff. You could make someone’s week by offering a plate of leftover dinner, a spare disposable razor, a pen, or your smartphone to allow someone to call a worried mom. It’s an easy way to make a connection and you open yourself up to help if you’re ever in need.
Some backpackers are seriously broke and you’d be surprised how a can of beer and a snack can brighten up their day. Be helpful, but not naive.
Bring reusable baggies or a small container to carry items from the local store. Or for a super frugal tip, grab some items from the hostel’s breakfast buffet for a midday snack. I once spent 20 Euro on a hard sandwich and a coke at a cafe outside of Notre Dame Cathedral, so don’t get caught hungry.
A multi-use tool, spork, or even the plastic cutlery from the flight over will do for any street food, market shopping, or hostel meals you make.
Collaborate with your hostel mates to cook a family-style sharing dinner. Head to a local grocery and try to figure out foreign labels, or have a blast at the local market trying spices and picking fresh produce.
Hostels often have a wide range of mismatched flatware and cookware to use. Just remember to clean up afterwards; don’t be “that” person. And be prepared for food and leftovers to be swiped from the fridge…that’s hostel life.
A spork and plastic bags are two of our recommended random necessities you might not think to pack!
There are usually bookshelves where you can borrow and trade a book so you don’t have to lug around cumbersome literature. Another space saver is an e-reader.
Consider bringing a guidebook or a notepad with a rough itinerary. Having a plan will reduce time and money wasted getting lost.
Computer access is often available in hostels, but some of the equipment and technology, to be frank, is archaic and almost unusable. While it would be enough to get by in a pinch, if you needed to access important emails or cloud documents, rely on your own smartphone device and the hostel wifi.
Here’s how to choose between bringing a laptop or tablet for travel!
Free wifi connections are often available, yet be careful with open wifi connections. The horror stories you hear in the media of bank accounts wiped out and information stolen are often due to connections on malicious networks posing as places like “McDonalds” or “Starbucks” wifi.
Invest in a VPN to connect to public wifi safely. If not, and your connection doesn’t have a security certificate, it’s best to avoid those connections.
Ensure your phone is unlocked to use on European carriers. It’s as simple as buying a SIM card and popping it into your phone. I like this option for “emergencies” but will use WiFi calling, such as with Whatsapp, which is available on a variety of applications for Android and Apple.
Find out the best portable power bank chargers!
Unless you’re camping, you don’t literally need to “backpack”. It’s more a term for that style of traveling. You can bring a small roller suitcase if you wish, as I usually do.
Those giant backpacks might not even fit into lockers, and they can leave you teetering over in pain if you overpack. A 35-liter pack should be sufficient for most people.
Find out how to choose between a backpack or rolling bag!
Overall, bring fewer clothes. TFG’s packing lists show you how this can be done with ease and you won’t end up wearing the same thing every day.
You can wear the same outfits and trust that no one will notice or care, but like me, you may want a little variety in your choices. I prefer to do laundry instead, either available for a small fee at the hostel or at a local laundromat.
Here are 3 options on how to do laundry while traveling!
Avoid buying new clothes or shoes to travel with, and instead save that money and buy an item when you’re abroad. It’s a great souvenir and you can purchase exactly what you need now that you’re in the destination.
Bringing well-worn and well-fitting items, especially shoes, ensure that you won’t end up with useless items taking up space in your luggage.
Here are the most comfortable shoes that travel bloggers swear by!
What do you think: are hostels safe? Share your tips in the comment section below!
For more packing tips, please read:
- 5 Steps to Choosing Toiletries
- Backpacking Checklist: Top 10 Hostel Travel Essentials
- How to Prevent Bed Bugs While Traveling: 8 Effective Tips
- Round the World Backpacking Packing List
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Author Bio: Kate is a small town girl looking to explore the world on a budget with a carryon bag in hand, all while looking smugly proud of her packing skills. Traveling internationally since 2008, Kate has stayed in dive hostels to high-end hotels with every mode of travel getting her there. Kate has a passion for makeup, skin care, hair care, and is obsessed with finding the best way to take her beauty routine on the road with her.
Thank you so much for this article! This gave me (and my parents) a real peace of mind regarding my solo travel next summer. I’m 33, but this will be my first time to Europe, first time traveling outside the US solo, and first time staying in hostels. I’m glad to know I’ll be alright. 🙂
yes you’ll be alright and you’ll also have fun meeting other travelers, too 🙂
As a single female about to embark on my first solo European trip, this is a great article.
Thanks Michala! This should be helpful, too: https://travelfashiongirl.com/the-only-backpacking-packing-list-for-europe-youll-ever-need/
I just wanted to say that I have stayed at many ” hostels ” in Europe that were more like a budget guesthouse as you could get a private room and washroom. I found it sometimes confusing with the term hostel, as they are not all dormitory rooms.
Thank you! It is surprising how many times hostels are mucher nicer than we might think 😉
These are great tips! I’ve been trying to decide if I should get a tablet for travel. My fiance’s laptop broke, so we are in need of something to replace it. I’m going to check out the post you linked to about laptop / tablets next.
I’ve also never considered using a wifi travel router. That’s a great idea 🙂
Thanks Sara! Happy to help 🙂