Worried about hostel security? You should be, a little. Here are some “no stress” tips for avoiding theft and enjoying your hostel experience.
1 – Be discreet
The first rule of hostel security is don’t be flashy with your valuables or consumer bling. You don’t know who is looking and they can’t want it if they haven’t seen it. Try to keep a low profile in hostels and on your travels generally. Your shiny stuff should, by rights, stay at home. Keep it to the basics : )
Image credit: lauraelatimer
2 – Stash your stuff in a security locker or safe
The good quality locker or safe at the hostel is the best bet. Use it, if it seems OK, but keep a reserve stash of essential stuff elsewhere.
Image credit: firmanhide
3 – Bring your own lock
You may not be able to trust their lock, so having your own lock takes the power back. A robust one makes you a harder target. You might want one more robust than pictured…
Image credit: Ashish Choudary
4 – Hide your stuff
If the lockers are non-existent/suspect, hide your stuff. Be careful with this and put some thought into it. You can do more harm than good in some scenarios (i.e. leaving stuff behind or forgetting where you hid it).
Image credit: Kaboompics
5 – If you’re OCD, try a portable safe
We’re not sure if this is a crank suggestion or not. These things exist but how effective are they actually going to be against a committed thief? OK, not too effective – but it might stop the casual evil doers. What folks usually do is hide this unit, under a bed or behind a wardrobe. That makes sense.
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6 – Carry essentials on you if your hostel is sketchy
Please don’t do as this old guy does…
A good money belt is critical for any nomad.
For your really essential stuff (passport, credit card, keys etc.) you may be better carrying it on your person if your hostel has sub-standard security arrangements.
Obviously, you’ll have to make a judgement call: going to the club and getting drunk with all your stuff on you is a bad idea (I’d use a hide strategy for a big night).
While you’re in your hostel – sleeping, for example – it may make sense to keep this money belt either on you or fairly close. Some folks put it under their pillow but I always just tied the belt to my thigh (yeah those 16 bed bunking rooms were awesome…)
Image credit: stevepb
7 – Check ahead of time what your hostel offers
Does your hostel have a reputation for theft or do they have good security facilities? With review sites, you can work out whether theft is a problem or whether lockers, staff culture etc. is inadequate. Avoid, where you can, big places with a chronic reputation for theft and other hostel security issues.
8 – Diversify
I’m a huge fan of this. I put a couple of credit cards in different places, so I’m unlikely to lose everything in one foul hit. For instance, I would remove most of my cards from my wallet when going out for a day trip. If you’re not driving, don’t risk your license card etc. Make sure you have a few means of payment back at your hostel in case somebody takes everything on you. For the absolutely dire scenario you can stash some US dollars in some random locations, I put a US$ 100 note somewhere where it’s not likely to go missing. Some nomads stitch one into a solid bit of clothing.
Image credit: moerschy
9 – Waterproof bag
Swimming at midnight with a new guy or gal? Don’t be stuck like I was burying your wallet and passport in the beach sand in Italy, worrying for ages where I’d actually buried it. With a rugged waterproof bag (properly sealed, god help you), you can do the beach and water activities without the angst. Of course, moderate yourself – these things will float away or sink, potentially, and you need to take the proper precautions for electronic equipment (I still don’t really trust them with smart phones). Excellent however for bare essentials and saves you from leaving them ashore.
In retrospect, the passport is much safer back at the hostel than at the beach, waterproof bag or not.
Image credit: Renzelle-Mae-Abasolo
10 – Have a recovery plan
Work out what you are going to do if you lose everything tomorrow. Knowing what you will do is easy and gives you the edge. At a minimum, your ‘hostel security’ plan should involve a few key things:
- Keep photocopies of your passport and visa (and a PDF copy in your email account)
- Keep some kind of government-issued photo ID separate from your other essentials (driver’s license, library card… anything plausible)
- Stash a modest emergency sum (US$100 – 200) or backup credit card somewhere separate
- Know how Western Union works and talk to friends/family about helping you out ahead of time
- Know where your nearest embassy / consulate is likely to be
- Keep your travel insurer’s details and know what they will do to assist
Image credit: pexels
11 – Don’t stress
Nothing ruins a trip like endlessly stressing about this crap. Take these reasonable, planned precautions on hostel security but after that don’t worry yourself. Having stuff stolen is a bad experience but it is not the end of the world and you’ll recover from it. Don’t let OCD or paranoia paralyze you or stop you from having fun on your travels. Bon voyage!
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What are your friendly tips? Don’t be shy. Let us know by leaving a comment below.