I still remember the first time the possibility of staying in a hostel came up when I was studying abroad. I’m going to be honest – I was pretty nervous. However, my roommate wasn’t even phased by it. “It’s cheap, it’s fun, we’ll be fine,” she said. I laughed to myself and thought yeah of course, sharing a bedroom with 8 other people sounds like a blast.
So, to “fully embrace the study abroad experience,” I pulled out my laptop and began my search for ‘hostels in Dublin’. I couldn’t believe how many options there were. Are hostels really that popular? Yes, yes they are, and they all seem so unique – classic hostels, hostels with bars and restaurants, party hostels, backpacker-specific hostels, the list went on and on. I ended up spending over an hour looking at all the choices, and finally decided on one that looked fun and had high ratings. Fingers-crossed.
Now, five months later, I look back at my study abroad experience and consider my stays in hostels all over Europe as some of the most impactful aspects of traveling. Staying in a hostel is giving yourself the opportunity to fully embrace the unexpected, meet new people from all over world and really learn about where you are. However, if you’re anything like me, you might find yourself a little skeptical at first.
From personal experience, I can say I have never had an issue staying in a hostel, BUT – I took the necessary precautions to make sure that when that when my mom did ask the question: “are hostels safe?” I was fully prepared to put her mind (and mine) at ease.
Do your research
First and foremost – put Google to work. There is usually a ton of information about hostels on the internet. From review websites, to just the way the business presents itself online, there are many ways to learn about a hostel before you get there. See what other people who have stayed there said, and don’t hesitate to call the hostel’s front desk if you have any questions.
Red Flag: If there isn’t a lot of information about a hostel online, move on to the next. If there were a lot of good things about the hostel, someone would have said something!
Look for locked storage options
Some hostels provide locked storage options, and others do not. Having a place within your room to lock up your stuff provides extra security for your belongings and it’s super convenient. Save yourself the hassle of needing to worry about lugging a backpack around and check out if this is available at the hostel you are looking at.
Red Flag: Storage Room – this means it’s a shared space and you will not be the only one with access. It’s still better than nothing, but not as secure as a personal locker.
Location, location, location
If you’re visiting a major city – stay in the heart of it! Safer hostels will be in the more populated areas, not to mention you’ll save a lot of money on transportation. Most of the time this will not be an issue, however; doing some research on the specific area of the city your hostel is located can give you some good insight. Especially if you’ll be traveling at night or by yourself, you don’t want to be in a bad area!
Red Flag: No map – most hostel websites will have a map on their website showing how close they are to all the important landmarks of a city. If not, most likely that aren’t in that great of a location and you might want to keep on looking.
Book in advance
Taking the time beforehand to plan and secure your spot in a hostel early can make all the difference. Booking in advance can be beneficial from a safety standpoint, and it can save you some money! Trust me, there are so many hostel choices in most cities, you are going to want to take advantage of that Wi-fi connection while you have it and confirm where you’ll be staying!
Red Flag: Not booking through StudentUniverse – with some of the cheapest options for students why wouldn’t you take advantage of the deals!? As a trusted site that’s already hooked up to TripAdvisor, you can check out reviews as you go through the booking process.
Comfort comes first
Everyone’s different, and that means preferences vary. At the end of the day there are multiple decisions to make when staying in a hostel – private vs. shared room, using a locker vs. keeping your most valuables on you, staying in a co-ed vs. a single gender room etc. When it comes down to it, you need to do what’s going to allow you to enjoy your experience to the fullest extent. If you’re constantly going to be worried about your stuff back at the hostel, throw it in your bag. Similarly, if you don’t think you’ll get a good night’s sleep in a room with a lot of people, book a private hostel room! It’s your trip – spend it carefree and happy, but don’t be afraid to surprise yourself.
So, are hostels safe?
Yes, and by following these steps staying in a hostel can be a smooth experience that you can make the most of. So, step out of your comfort zone if you need to, and start searching for your perfect hostel. Need some inspiration? Check out this list of the Best Hostels Around the World to get you started, or if you’ve already booked your hostel, read our 10 Tips on how to make your stay the best it can be!