Europe is a diverse, exciting continent full of history and culture. Many want to travel there but want to do so on a budget. A hostel can be a sociable and enjoyable way to do this.
In this article, I’ll explain exactly why I think hostels in Europe are safe. I’ll also give you 11 top tips for European hostel safety that will help you stay safe when traveling.
Traveling around Europe is a true pleasure and the extent of the architecture and assortment of attractions will rival any continent on Earth.
Are hostels in Europe safe?
Hostels in Europe are very safe. To minimize the risk of any negative experiences, most hostels have good security features, processes, and staffing. Online reviews are a good way to check the features of a hostel before booking. Provided you practice reasonable judgment and common sense, staying in hostels is a great way to meet people and base yourself in the prime locations of the many fantastic cities of Europe.
Compared with hostels I have stayed at in Asia and Central America, safety is the best in Europe.
Having stayed in many different European hostels I can say they are generally very well managed, and you have good access to services if needed.
I’ve tried to share as much of my experience as I can in this article. Read on for my comprehensive answer on why hostels in Europe are safe, and for the best practices for staying in them.
How To Stay Safe In A European Hostel
- Read the online profile of a hostel carefully prior to booking and review the security features
- Read all the customer reviews
- If possible, travel with at least one other person.
- Research the area that the hostel is located in prior to booking. Central locations are best
- Walk away upon arrival if you don’t like what you see.
European Hostels Provide Good Access to Services
One reason hostel safety in Europe is so good is the access to services. The general infrastructure in Europe is excellent, in terms of access to medical care, emergency services, and diplomatic assistance. This provides a great safety net for travelers.
You can review many options for European hostels on Hostelworld.
Who stays in hostels in Europe?
Hostels can be a thoroughly enjoyable experience as you engage and interact with people from all corners of the world.
From my experience, over the past decade, I can honestly say that most people I’ve met have been like-minded travelers looking to meet new people and have a good time.
Occasionally there will be an exception so read this guide to ensure you stay safe in hostels in Europe. Hostels do not allow guests to enter the dormitory area with ought a key card, so people that enter/stay in a hostel pass through the hostel booking process’ and usually have to show identification.
Location in the city is important
The location and time of year will have a big effect on the type of people you meet in a given hostel.
For example, if you are outside of the city center you are more likely to encounter budget travelers such as truckers or people on road trips that are using it as a stop-off. There may also be some people staying in the hostel because they are working nearby.
The city center is much more likely to have primarily tourists/backpackers.
These hostels have less access to parking and are more expensive due to location, so they generally attract backpackers and tourists that want to be close to the attractions.
Time of year is important
It is also worth noting that hostels will be much busier and full of backpackers during the peak months for that location.
Europe, for example, is much busier during the summer months as this is when the weather is best and people either take time off work or study.
The hostel community is fantastic and on the rare occasion that a guest does cause trouble then they will be blacklisted from staying again in that and potentially other hostels.
It’s important to remember that the vast majority of people are staying in a hostel to enjoy themselves on a tourist trip, not steal from others! Trust your instincts and act accordingly based on the people you meet during your adventure.
European Health Insurance Card
A free card that gives you access to medically necessary, state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in any of the 28 EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, under the same conditions and at the same cost (free in some countries) as people insured in that country.European Commission Website
Check World Nomads Now
If you are from Switzerland or a country that is a member of the European Economic Area, then you should ensure that you have applied for and received your card before you start your trip.
For more information on how to apply for the card contact your National Healthcare Provider
Top 11 Tips for Staying Safe in Hostels in Europe
This ultimate guide will outline the top tips to remember to stay safe in hostels in Europe. Often the first time staying in a hostel can be nerve-racking so it’s important to know this advice.
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Read the reviews, do your research and trust your instinct!
I always read some of the reviews on Hostelworld before I book a hostel. You can also try googling “best hostels in (location)” and see if any travel bloggers have researched your chosen location.
I like to look at the photos of the hostel and see if the interior looks modern and looked after. This generally means there’s been a bit of money spent on it so the security features and staffing will likely be up to a high standard.
Location, location, location!
This is crucial. Generally, hostels in the center of town are the best both from a social/activities perspective but also with regards to the safety of the area they are located.
Hostels on the outskirts may be cheaper but it might not be a safe area to walk around at night and you can end up spending more on transport getting to the fun parts of town. You can also google the location of the hostel “is X in Paris safe?” as a checkup.
Arrive before dark
If you are going to be walking from a public transport hub try to either arrive before dark or get a taxi/bus to the hostel.
If you are planning to walk to the hostel you can ask a local if the area you plan to walk through is safe. Locals are often very friendly and happy to help visitors!
Padlocks and lockers
I always carry two padlocks, one for a locker and the other to lock the zips together on my bag. I’ve never experienced theft firsthand in a hostel in a decade of travel however I have heard instances of it.
It’s rare but generally it’s opportunist theft and if your bag is locked it’s not an easy target. I would still use the lockers in the private rooms, better safe than sorry! Most (rare) thefts are opportunist incidents, keeping things locked away is a strong deterrent.
Keep your valuables in a carry bag or locker
Do not leave valuables in your room unless it is in a locker! Even if your bag has a lock on it it’s better to keep valuables either in a locker or in a small bag that you carry around.
Generally, take as few valuables as possible when planning to travel in hostels. Stick to the crucial phone wallet keys rule and take as little cash as possible.
Chat to the locals and hostel staff
I think this is often overlooked by many but it’s one of my top tips. Hostel staff will know the area and the hostel extremely well so if you are looking for advice, they are a great place to start.
When checking in you can ask what the area is like safety-wise whilst you are learning about all the activities and hostel rules!
Many hostels offer the option of a male or female-only dormitory. If this makes you feel safer then you can go ahead and arrange that in the booking process on Hostelworld.
There are now numerous hostels that are female-only. You also often have the choice of the number of occupants you share a dorm with. If you are a first-time traveler, you can consider staying in one of the smaller 4 or 6-bed dorms.
Many hostels also have private rooms which you could try for a night or two whilst you settle in.
I think this point explains itself. If you are going to drink heavily and party, then make sure you are with your friends or people you have built trust with.
Have the name of your hostel written down somewhere clear and the address so you can get home safely. Keep some money aside for a taxi and ask the hostel staff for a reputable taxi company before going out.
Staying in central hostels can be great because the bars are often nearby. Use your judgment and have fun with ought putting yourself at unnecessary risk.
If you are going to get on the booze, at least try to Eat Healthy While Traveling!
Insurance and medical care.
I use World Nomads for my travel insurance as it provides a higher level of cover than I get from my European Health Insurance Card alone. For more info on this check out my ultimate guide on travel insurance as each person’s needs is different.
Make sure you have your insurance details handy, usually on a smartphone, so they can be accessed if there is an incident.
If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an incident, sexual or otherwise, then an embassy can provide a safe location to go to. You can find the nearest embassy online.
Make sure you have the phone number for the emergency services too. You can check out Go Abroad for a list of embassies!
Consider travelling in a group
Whilst solo travel can be fun and adventurous, you could consider traveling in a group if it’s your first time staying in a hostel.
When you are in a group you can look out for each other and worth together to navigate around and enjoy the new locations you visit.
Check Out: Finding Cheap Flights
Hostel Safety Features in Europe
Hostels in Europe often have key card access from my experience. This provides an extra layer of security on top of the member of staff at the front desk as it prevents unauthorized access to the dormitories. Remember not to let strangers into the dorm area.
I have also found that general building access is controlled well in Europe. Often a key card, code or buzzer to the front desk is required for entry. In other continents, I’ve stayed in more places where you can walk right into the building.
In addition to this, some hostels that have had a bit more investment can even have curtains or more enclosed sleeping areas. I stayed in a hostel on the Isle of Skye which had excellent pods within the dorms!
Extra Quick-Fire Tips for Staying Safe in Hostels in Europe
- Take a digital photo of your passport and email it to yourself.
- Have a small amount of backup cash in a hidden location in your bag in case you lose your main wallet/purse
- Trust your instincts! There have been a couple of occasions where I haven’t liked the feel of a hostel, so I simply booked another one and made an excuse
- Don’t flash around valuables when it is not necessary to do so.
- Lock your main bag to a bedpost for extra security. Main bag theft is extremely rare
- Make sure you know the number for the emergency services in each country you are visiting.
You might also like: How to save money for travel
Best Gear for Staying Safe in Hostels in Europe
Hopefully, the tips above have provided you with some useful advice. Here are some quick bits of gear you can use for extra security on the trip.
Theft Proof Rucksack
Although Europe is generally safe, pickpockets can be common in some locations such as Barcelona. You should be specifically careful in crowded areas such as the subway.
This backpack is excellent because the zips are hidden. It is a clear deterrent to any potential pickpocket. The price does change occasionally but I use amazon to check the retailers.
Theft proof backpack
As I discussed in the article. Using locks is an absolute must for lockers. Most hostels have cupboards or lockers that require you to have your own padlock.
I always carry two padlocks because I like to lock my main bag as well as having my valuables in a locker.
TSA approved luggage travel lock
Using a money belt is a nice way to keep money and documents safe and secure around your waist.
RFID Blocking Travel Wallet
Keep your passport and documents safe in a passport case.
Leather Passport Case
I hope this guide has been helpful in answering your question are hostels in Europe safe. Please feel free to write any suggestions in the comments section or check out the rest of the blog!
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Iain founded The Road Trip Expert in 2019 and continues to manage the website to this day. The inspiration to start the blog came during an extensive road trip around Europe with two friends that spanned several months and involved over 25,000km of driving. He started backpacking in 2014 and has had the pleasure of exploring over 60 countries. Read more on the About page.