Thanks to several ill-conceived cameos in the movies, hostels tend to have a bad reputation to anyone hasn’t stayed in one. For those of you who have, however, the experience tends to be nothing short of fantastic. Surrounded by adventurous, carefree travellers in an environment dedicated to showing you a good time, the hostels you stay in can be the highlight of a trip. Be that as it may, with guests carrying so many valuables nowadays, hostels can sometimes be a thief’s paradise. This shouldn’t be something to put you off staying in one, though, and if you take the right precautions, you can easily keep your backpack safe so that you can go out and focus on having a good time.
Reviews and recommendations
Reviews of hostels on websites such as Hostelworld and Hostelbookers can be useful to read through before you reserve a bed anywhere. If someone had their belongings stolen or felt there weren’t enough security measures taken in the hostel, the internet is one of the first places they’d go to shout about it. Both of these websites have sections in their review systems on safety, so it’s easy to find a rating of what previous guests thought.
If you’re backpacking around and want word on safety straight from the horse’s mouth, ask around in a hostel to see if anyone has already been to your next stop and could recommend the accommodation. Not only will you start making friends in the hostel by doing this, but you might also get more trustworthy advice if you don’t entirely believe what’s written on the internet.
Locks and lockers
One of the single most useful things to take traveling is a lock, and a good one at that. The majority of hostels have lockers for guests to use, some with existing locks and a key, or others with a hook for your own padlock. Once you arrive at a hostel, make it your routine to put everything valuable in your locker right away. It’s totally up to you how drastic you go, but I have found that people don’t generally tend to steal clothing, so locking your entire backpack away isn’t always necessary. You could also lock up sections of your backpack, or use wire locks to attach it to the furniture if you’re worried about a lot being taken.
— Daddy (@LifeisSavage) September 27, 2016
Some people use locks with keys, other with combinations. In my opinion, it’s easier to lose a key than to forget a 3- or 4-digit code, but your choice comes down to personal preference. I would advise buying a big padlock, as sometimes the smaller ones don’t fit on some hostel lockers.
Use baggage storage or reception
Leaving luggage around in common areas of hostels is one of the times when they are most vulnerable, as they could be at risk to people not staying there. Before you’re allowed to check in, or after you’ve checked out, take advantage of the luggage storage in a hostel if you need to. These storage facilities are also useful to store objects you’re carrying with you that you don’t need at that particular time, like a surf- or snowboard; lock it away for the duration of your stay. Using the luggage storage will ensure that someone is always keeping an eye on your things, or they’re behind a locked door. Some hostels will also allow you to keep small valuables behind reception, a useful service for passports.
I have known some people to leave their valuables lying around a hostel and never having a problem. Others turn their back for one second and they’re swiped. The extent you want to go to keep your belongings safe is entirely up to you, but most of the thefts in hostels I have heard of have been due to someone leaving their things out, unattended. I lock my valuables away any chance I get, and after three years of traveling, I’ve still had nothing stolen, even though I have an expensive camera and laptop with me. There have been occasions where I have left my things alone with someone I’ve only known for a day, but not for long and only in a situation where I trust my gut to do so. Intuition is an important characteristic to have when it comes to keeping your things guarded, and if you have any shred of doubt about their safety, there’s no harm in locking them away.