Theft is something that's always on a backpackers mind as it's a reality of travel. Especially before heading off on an adventure, and most definitely if it's your first one, it's understandable that you'd be concerned.
We'll cover everything your need to know in this article from what to expect, to ways to prevent theft in hostels.
Theft in hostels isn't very common. Things rarely get stolen as travelers that frequent hostels are mostly backpackers, all with the same concerns. Also, hostels have rooms and lockers for baggage and personal items that you can easily use to secure your things - usually you'll have to bring your own physical lock.
That being said, there is potential for theft as the hostels usually house multiple people in multiple rooms. It would be a lie to say that things never get stolen. Luckily there's more than a few things you can do to prevent or mitigate this.
1. Lock Up Your Valuables
As mentioned before, hostels will always have lockers for you to store personal items. Some will be combination locks, some will have keys that the hostel will give you, but most of the time, you'll be required to bring your own physical lock.
Putting your valuables in lockers is one thing, but you should also consider locking your bag too.
Someone trying to steal something valuable will be less likely to walk out of a hostel with a full bag worth of things. And when your bag's locked, it'll be that much more difficult to get the one valuable thing and leave.
Make sure your bag has lockable zips. Our favorite backpacking bag has hard plastic ones that are perfect for locks. Review below.
2. Get Insurance Cover That Includes Theft
Sometimes, whatever precautions we take, something still gets stolen. That's life and it's OK, but this is when we want to have a backup plan - travel insurance is the best option here.
Most travel insurance cover will include theft and other staples like medical and flight cancellation etc. but you want to make sure that it covers high value items and the excess isn't a crazy amount.
You should compare insurance companies to see what works for you, but getting a backpacker specific one which covers bike rental, and is generous when it comes to theft, is a must.
The go-to recommendation at Thrifty Backpacker is World Nomads. Especially because of how comprehensive it is when it comes to medical and other things that could go wrong - but definitely check first, this is just our recommendation.
3. Have a Backup Card, Cash & Phone
If your main functional things get stolen or lost, the biggest pain point is the fact that you're now incapable of doing basic things while traveling.
If your phone is gone, it's hard to book hostels without having access to a computer or someone else's phone. If your card is gone, you've already locked it to prevent theft, so you can't use it to book things.
Having a backup of all these things will ensure that in the event that something goes wrong, you can easily manage to recover.
- Most travel credit/debit cards will have a secondary one. Always keep one on you, and always keep the other in your backpack. It won't hurt to have multiple travel cards from different banks too.
- We all have an old phone that we're not using, make sure to pack it in your bag, just in case you lose or damage your current one.
- Carry a small amount of US Dollars in your backpack for emergencies. It's easily convertible into nearly all currencies, regardless of where you are.
More tips on managing money abroad below.
4. Get a Money Belt or Travel Wallet
Especially if you're weary of leaving cash or cards in the hostel, a money belt or travel wallet will be perfect so you can carry the essentials with you, and prevent any theft you might encounter in the streets.
These strap around you, can easily be concealed, are hard to get into by pickpockets, and also have NFC blockers so thieves can't scan your card to take a contactless payment. They're number 10 on our list of essential items.
5. Keep Your Valuables Out of Plain Sight
You may have all your things locked up, but when you take them out to use them, whether it be a camera or laptop, don't announce to everyone that you have all this gear.
Stacking up your Macbook, DSLR, GoPro and jewelry on your bed while you ruffle through your clothes is very much an advertisement to any potential thieves that might stumble on you fixing up your bag. Keep the gear out of sight, and there'll be less incentive for any would-be thieves.
You don't have to go overboard with keeping everything a secret, just simply use caution when displaying your valuables to the world.
6. Book Smaller Rooms or Smaller Hostels
The fewer people in a room or fewer people in a hostel, the less likely it will be that your valuables get stolen.
The smaller establishments have dedicated staff, a more intimate atmosphere, and a smaller number of potential suspects in the event that something does get stolen. But even just having a smaller room means that there're fewer people who have access to the room, as most hostels have key cards for each dorm room.
Even though you should always be a little cautious and weary in hostels, you shouldn't be paranoid or overly worried. 99.9% of the people you're going to meet are going to be fantastic people, potentially life long friends.
You'll form a trusting bond with a lot of these people, and they'd go out of their way to help you if they could.
Just because there's a possibility that a very small minority might have loose morals, doesn't mean you should write off everyone and not leave yourself potential to make lifelong connections!
Hostels are also inherently safe. All dorms usually have key-card entry, which limits people coming in, they have lockers, and cameras too.
If you follow all the tips for prevention and mitigation outlined above, you'll be completely fine when it comes to things being stolen. You'll either never have it happen to you, or if you do, you'll be entirely covered.
I hope that puts your worries at ease!
Safe travels, and best of luck!