Are hostels safer than hotels?

So here’s the thing – in the past hostels have gotten a bit of bad reputation as a method of accommodation to use whilst travelling. So much so that even years on from their darker days and with many luxury hostels popping up all over the place lately (with swimming pools, spas, the lot), you’ll still find some people who would never go near a hostel simply because of a reputation that trickles down from the past. And the truth is hostels are not suited to everyone. You may be reading this as someone who really wouldn’t suit hostel life and that’s totally ok. A difference in taste either way doesn’t mean a bad thing. We are all different in terms of what we like and dislike.

However, there are also lots of other people who I suspect really would like staying in hostels but just don’t really know it. In fact, I have one friend in particular who I know would love the social aspect of a hostel common room greatly but through fear, snobbery, or whatever reason it may be is just afraid to try one. Or rather I suspect that is the reasons anyway. I could be wrong. I possibly should have asked her before writing this article – but that would be proper journalism rather than this writing while the inspiration hits at 2am malarkey! ;)

But I believe a lot of the reasons why some people avoid hostels has to do with the shared dorm room aspect. Most people who haven’t stayed in a hostel before usually don’t really want to share a room with other people they haven’t met before. In fact, there are many times I don’t want to either despite the fact that I do. It’s true that sometimes you sacrifice some small things in order to get bigger gains in hostels, and in most cases being able to travel on shoe string budget and meeting other like minded backpackers is such a cool gain that I put up with the occasional idiot room mate.

I do get it completely when the idea of staying in a shared hostel dorm room is something that makes a person feel a bit nervous or uncomfortable at the idea. I was once that person too. However, as someone who decided to give it a try a long time ago and is now a complete convert to the hosteling way of life, I wanted to break down some stereotypes and things you may not actually know about staying in hostels.

The first is that most hostels offer private rooms just like a hotel room that you can book out on your own. You don’t have to share with anyone if you really don’t want to, but then the second point I’m about to make wouldn’t make sense unless you stay in dorm rooms like I do and get the more common experience of hosteling!

I really believe that staying in a hostel is safer than staying in a hotel. Let me explain…

When you’re a solo female traveller or a solo anything really, safety comes in numbers. By that what I mean is that I feel much more safe in the biggest hostel dorm room full of people I don’t know because I’m going to take the odds that the large majority of them (and usually all of them) are good people. In the same way that most people you pass by crossing a crowded street are generally good people, I believe the same ratio goes for hostels because, well, I’ve met a lot of people in hostels and they’ve all generally been nice people.

When I’m travelling alone I like the idea that if I had to scream for some reason (even if it’s rare that I would ever need to) there would be people in the immediate vicinity to hear me. In a hotel room on your own I don’t always feel as safe if I’m honest – and it could just be my own anxiety prone paranoia – but I feel like in a private hotel room you’re totally on your own if someone breaks in for instance or tries to do something. I just feel more safe in a room full of people than in a room with just me.

I view it kind of like I view the idea of not walking home alone at night. I don’t walk alone home at night (unless absolutely necessary or if I’m being stupid as I have done in the past) because if someone were to decide to do something bad to me there would be no-one around to help – therefore I am less likely to come out unscathed. I sleep easier in a hostel dorm room full of people I’ve never met before because on the rare chance that someone might break into my room or do something bad I know there are people there to help on that rare occasion that something might happen. That’s not to say something couldn’t happen, but in my mind it’s less likely when there are more people around.

Please note; it should be stated at this point that someone actually breaking into you hotel or hostel room is very rare anyway. It should also be stated that bad things can happen anywhere too – that includes in hostels, hotels, or anywhere else for that matter. I wouldn’t let it stop you fulfilling your dreams ever, but that’s just me and each individual has to make their own decisions. There is also the more common issue of theft which has to be taken into consideration. Unfortunately theft is more likely to happen in a shared hostel dorm room simply because there are more people coming in and out your room for starters, and you can’t leave things lying around in your room like you may do in a hotel (or opportunistic theft may happen from the people you’re sharing with.) That said, even that is not a common occurrence in a hostel (in my experience anyway), but I have to be honest and say that it’s more likely versus a hotel in my personal experience of travelling simply because there are more people in the room. You can also prevent this greatly by staying in one of the many hostels with lockers in the room!

So I’m going to come out and say that hostels are safer than hotels. It’s not actually meant as a controversial statement. I don’t want this to be construed as me saying that hotels are generally unsafe. They’re not. Each hostel and hotel’s safety is largely dependant on their own management, facilities, and how they are run individually by their own staff. My hope is simply that this article may open some people up to trying a hostel who may never have otherwise because the truth is it will allow you to spend less money (in most cases) on your accommodation and therefore make your travels last longer. It’s safe to say there’s been many times in recent years I would simply not have been able to travel for as long as I have if it were not for the budget prices of cheap hostel dorm rooms. I literally owe my travels to hosteling and how cheap it has become in some places to stay per night. I’ve also met some incredible people in hostels that have really shaped my travels for me and made me remember certain destinations with such a smile on my face that I wouldn’t have had otherwise in that place. But I also genuinely believe that they are safer places to be for a lone backpacker.

So whether you agree with me or not I hope that this article comes to you in the spirit that it was intended – from a girl who loves hostels and one day wants to start her own! One who hopes that if you’ve never tried a hostel that you may at least try it out.

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7 Responses to “Are hostels safer than hotels?”

  1. Claire says:

    Interesting article Jane. I never really thought about it that way. Hmmmmm….

  2. Rebecca says:

    Really interesting! I’ll always remember this conversation I listened to on a bus in Australia that some girls were having about this exact topic and they mentioned that the only time they ever got anything stolen was when they stayed at Hilton in Thailand or something and they were convinced that the cleaning staff stole some of their stuff. They were trying to talk some other girls into staying at a hostel, claiming this exact topic.

  3. Rosemary says:

    I a just thinking about this topic. I often stay in hostels and i feel very safe. However i am currently staying in student accommodation and have my own room. I have been broken into recently and lost my camera. So now i defiantly don’t feel safe, here. The other students tend to keep to themselves, so there is no sense of community just like a hotel. In a hostel you look out for each other.

  4. Michelle says:

    I can kind of understand where you’re coming from with this. I’ve only stayed in a dorm room once (well, twice if you include a couple of weeks ago when I paid for a private and was given a dorm to myself!) when I was in Germany and I had no problems with it. I met a really nice girl who was starting a job there and was about to move into a house. Then at New Year I was staying in a hotel room in Cambodia and heard a girl being raped next door. It was terrifying.

    I’d also like to point out that these were only my experiences and that too is uncommon. I don’t want to scare anyone off Cambodia, it’s a fantastic country.

  5. Roni Faida says:

    I’m not a big fan of hostels (or hotels for that matter) but I understand your thinking. I prefer to rent apartments, or even a room in someone’s home but I just can’t get with sharing a room with strangers. But you are right, it’s a great way to travel without spending tons of money.

  6. Colleen says:

    Great points! This is what I’m always telling people! I do feel safer in hostels, even in coed rooms. Safety in numbers, totally. Who wants to be in a new place, not knowing anyone, and be an anonymous lone soul asleep and vulnerable all alone in a hotel room? Also, someone’s usually in the room and keeping an eye on everyone’s stuff. Especially if I’m feeling sick, it’s nice to have a “family” of people around to help out. Another perk… I’ve made some of my best travel friends in hostels and they’ve been able to host or show me around when I got to their city.

  7. I always had problems with staying in hostels, I do not mind home stays, guest houses, little hotels but hostels are just a bit off putting and not that I wouldn’t mind saving some cash, simply I do not enjoyed shared rooms with 6 other people. And prices for separated rooms are same as little hotels! But I notice that more and more really stylish hostels are popping out around the world. I will give it a try one day! :)

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