Before I stayed in my first hostel I asked the same question – are hostels safe? Will I be okay? Will someone steal my stuff? Will I get stabbed? It’s been over a year now since I stayed in my first hostel and although I haven’t done it a ton of times I’ve done it enough to have a few hints and tips to make sure I have a better stay. And I decided to share them with this blog!
When I first decided to book a hostel this was my number one question. The thought of sharing a room with strangers is incredibly intimidating and I was concerned for my safety. Would someone try and steal my stuff? Would they hurt me? Threaten me? Straight up murder me?
Here’s the answer I found: Are you planning to steal their stuff? Hurt them? Murder them? Of course not. So why would they to you? Ultimately you’re all in a hostel for the same thing. You want a cheap place to sleep.
Obviously not everyone you stay with is going to be trustworthy so make sure you take necessary precautions. For example locking away your valuables. The hardest part is mobile phones as they’re easy to steal and usually you want to charge them over night. Luckily most hostels will put a socket on your bunk so you can keep your phone near you while you sleep but remember that isn’t always the case. Me and Jess stayed in a hostel with six other girls and everyone had to charge their phone in a central location – we contemplated just charging one person’s phone and keeping the other locked away just in case but in the end we took the risk and charged both of them and they were fine. If you leave the room, even if you just pop to the bathroom, make sure everything valuable is either on you or locked away so no one can get at it.
Remember that you can literally end up with anyone and that may include people that are grumpy, nasty, anti-social, extremely social etc. However you should never be in a position where you feel unsafe. In hostels I’ve often felt fed-up, tired, grumpy, angry, irritated etc. But never once have I felt unsafe. Most hostels offer 24 hour reception so if someone in your room is seriously making you feel unhappy or unsafe then report them. Don’t worry about being a ‘tattletale’, your well-being is always the top priority.
This one is what I personally do and you can choose to take or leave this advice but I would never stay in a mixed dormitory, I will only ever go for a female only room. In Poland I had the opportunity to either stay in a four bed bunkbed style room or four single bed room. I was very tempted by the single bed room because I hate bunkbeds but when I found out the single bed room was mixed I had to go for the female only bunkbed. I’m sure there are tons of girls who have stayed in a mixed dormitory and been fine but as a solo female traveller I just don’t feel comfortable with that.
I’m gonna be 100% honest with you right now. From my experience sleep quality in a hostel is not good. The only time I got a brilliant night’s sleep in a hostel was when I was going through a phase of my ears blocking while I slept so all noise was drowned out and I slept without waking all night. Every other time I have been woken up a few times.
Ultimately, you get what you pay for. I recently stayed in a hostel in Poland that was £18 for three nights. What a bargain! Let me tell you though, I was exhausted by the end of the trip. On two nights I was woken in the middle of the night by someone snoring. On the first night three girls I was sharing with returned and whispered to each other for a long time before eventually going to sleep. When they left they were replaced by a girl studying for her exams who was often on her laptop for the majority of the night. But ultimately I got what I paid for – £6 a night to have a warm bed to lie in.
If you’re okay with wearing ear plugs I would personally recommend them, I don’t know how well they work but I imagine they could be a lifesaver. I don’t really like sticking things in my ears (including earphones) so I’ve never done that. If you can sleep while listening to music then I’d also recommend sticking your earphones in and having music playing low so you don’t hear everyone else’s noise. Also an eye-mask – my friend at work laughed at me for buying one but it was helpful in Poland when people came back and switched the main light on so they could see what they were doing while I was trying to sleep. My only complaint was that I found it a bit uncomfortable but it was worth it to block out the light.
Another tip is that you can get different sized bedrooms and I find it’s generally worth paying the extra to share with less people. The largest dorm I’ve been in was an eight person room, the smallest was a four person room. You can get some ridiculous sized rooms though, I’ve seen like thirty-six person dorms where I imagine sleep would be absolutely impossible.
Other Hints and Tips
– Some people may disagree with this but as a shy introvert I think I’m going to make it a rule that unless I’m really broke in the future I would only use hostels for a one night stay. I like to come back and have a couple of hours to myself before going to sleep which can be difficult in a hostel as there is usually always someone else around. But it depends on you and your routine to be honest!
– Remember that you’re not perfect either. Someone’s come back and wants to shower at midnight? Someone’s come back and flicked the light on to look for their stuff even though everyone’s trying to sleep? Someone keeps checking their phone? Very irritating yes but remember that you have your own habits that others will find irritating. I always thought I was pretty quiet but I once got told I’m a ‘right fidget’ and it’s true. I toss and turn before I can fall asleep and it must do people’s heads in.
– If you’re planning on coming back late keep what you need out on your bed. I always put my pyjamas and tooth brush etc. on my pillow so that people know it’s my bed and I have easier access to it when I get back. If someone genuinely steals your pyjamas and tooth brush (why would they even) it’s not the end of the world and you can continue with your trip. Keep your phone charger in your bag so you can plug it in when you get back without rootling around to find it.
– Make sure your phone has a little bit of battery when you get back – I’ve returned to a hostel at about 10PM and assumed I’d either be the first back or find everyone else sat with their lamps on. They were all in bed with the main light off. You don’t wanna be that asshole who switches on the main light so use the torch on your phone to find your things and get into bed.
– Take a lock with you. I borrowed one from Jess before I went to Poland to find that we were automatically given a key to a locker anyway but in the UK I’ve found you have to bring your own lock if you want to put your valuables away. I’d recommend bringing one with you just in case. You can often hire a lock from hostels but this is an extra charge so it’s always best to come prepared.
– Respect everyone’s privacy. People may leave things on their beds. Don’t go through them. Seems obvious but I’m quite a nosy person so the temptation is always there. Don’t do it! In the same way you don’t want them going through your stuff, don’t do it to them!
– If you’re not particularly social don’t worry about it. I’m a shy introvert and when I stay in hostels I’m not really looking to make friends. Obviously it’s nice to be friendly to people and you should be polite to everyone but if you don’t want to socialise then that’s okay. Feel free to stick your headphones in or go on your phone or read a book or whatever it is that you want to do.
– Try and be as tidy as possible. My friends will vouch for me that I am super messy and tend to spread all my stuff across any hotel room we stay in within a matter of minutes. But that’s okay because they’re my friends and they’re used to me. I don’t imagine strangers would be very happy if I spread all my stuff across the room. Keep your stuff together and keep it neat. It should also stop people from messing with it.
To recap, hostels are generally quite safe and if for one second you do feel unsafe then just let reception know and they will be happy to sort it out for you. Also remember that you get what you pay for and try not to be too fussy!