When it comes to staying in hostels, many people fear their stuff getting stolen. Just last week, I posted about my stay in the Venice Beach Hostel and and a fellow reader (Adam) had a question about safety. He suggested that I write a post on the topic and I thought I would do just that.
So here are are a few tips I have picked up over the years on how to protect your belongings while staying in hostels:
1. Bring A Padlock
The first time I ever stayed at a hostel I did not bring a lock with me since I had no idea what to expect. I ended up having to search for a store nearby that sold decent ones. I have since learned my lesson and permanently keep a Master Lock attached to my backpack. So what’s the lock for?
Almost every hostel will provided lockers for your valuables. It is very uncommon for a hostel to not offer lockers since most travelers have some valuables with them. Out of all the ones I have stayed at, only one of them did not offer in-room lockers. However, they did have lockers in the hallways which still did the job and kept my stuff safe.
One word of advice is to go for a key lock instead of a combination. I know it’s a pain to have another key but the reason I say this is because it’s damn near impossible to open a combination lock in the dark. You will most likely have a bunch of “roommates” in your room and you never know when you might have to get into the locker at night.
2. Pack A Good Laptop Lock
If you are traveling with a laptop like I always do, you will also want to pack a good laptop lock. The reason is because there may be times where you leave the room for a few minutes and don’t want to go through the hassle of closing your computer and jamming it in your locker. Especially if you are trying to charge it.
I purchased a Targus one for about 30 bucks and have never had any problems with it. No one has cut it or broken it yet. I think the main purpose of the lock is to create a sense of protections since most people won’t steal something if they have to go out of their way to do it.
If you plan on keeping your laptop outside the locker all night, I highly recommend locking it to your bed and then placing it underneath it towards the wall. That way someone would have to literally climb under your bed and break it off the lock while you are sleeping. If you are a really deep sleeper, then I would just lock it up in your locker to be safe.
3. Don’t Carry Your Camera Around Your Neck
And I’m not saying this because it makes you look like a tourist. Instead, keep your camera in a small bag around your shoulder or waist. That way you aren’t showing it off to everyone in the hostel. Remember, most people steal things because they were flashed in front of them or left laying somewhere.
I always travel with my Nikon D80 which was pretty expensive when I bought it and I would be super bummed if someone jacked it from me. That’s why I bought a nice bag to go with it that I can fit in my backpack. I tend to leave it in my backpack while I am in the room so no one sees it. It’s hard for someone to steal something if they don’t know you have it.
It’s also important to keep your camera in your locker when you are sleeping or outside the room. It’s just common sense…
4. Bring A Small Bag For Valuables
One thing I have learned over time is to bring along a small bag to keep my valuables in. That way I can take the bag out of my main backpack and put it in my locker. It never looks good when you carry your wallet, watch, money, and passport in your arms while walking passed your roommates.
It also makes it much easier if you are checking in and out of hostels every few days. Just be sure to keep the bag small since lockers tend to vary in size depending on the hostel.
5. Keep Your Wallet Light
The first time I stayed in a hostel I had a decent amount of cash in my wallet and along with every plastic card I have collected in my lifetime. Debit cards, credit cards, gift cards, the whole works. I didn’t think about it at the time, but getting your wallet stolen isn’t that difficult. It’s not that hard to lay down in the middle of the day and fall asleep with your wallet in your back pocket. It’s also pretty easy to drop your wallet when you are showering or changing your clothes. I do it all the time and always misplace my wallet.
That’s why I have kept my wallet “light” ever since that stay. Before I leave home, I take out everything I will not need on the trip. I usually only bring one debit card and one credit card along. I also take out any gift cards or other cards I may have that I know I will not need. That way if for some reason I did lose my wallet, at least some of my stuff would be safe at home.
I also keep the amount of cash I carry very small. It’s not that difficult to find an ATM machine when you need one. They are literally everywhere. If you are worried about the ATM fees, just keep an eye out for a no-fee ATM.
Hostels Really Can Be Safe
If you use my tips the next time to stay at a hostel, you will see that they are much safer than people think. It just takes a little more common sense to keep your belongings safe. Once you master it, you will never want to stay in a hotel again. Hanging out with people from all over the world is one of the coolest things you can do!