After receiving their exam results, many young people are setting off to travel the world, and planning to stay in cheap hostels. But after two young Britons were knifed to death at an Australian backpackers’ hostel, many travellers, and their parents, may have major safety concerns about such accommodation.
However, travel experts insist hostels are safe, and the vast majority of travellers stay in them without incident, often having a great time while they’re there.
Here are 12 things holidaymakers can do to ensure their safety, and look after their possessions, while staying at a hostel:
1. Do your research – look at reviews on sites like www.tripadvisor.co.uk, but don’t let just one bad review put you off.
2. Ask other travellers where they’ve stayed, and which hostels they’d recommend.
3. Stay with friends you’re travelling with, or have met on your journey and grown to trust. There’s safety in numbers.
4. Trust your instincts. If other people in your dorm make you feel uncomfortable or frightened, either ask hostel staff if there’s another dorm/room you can move to, or look for another hostel. Your safety is paramount.
5. Nearly all hostels now have luggage storage rooms and personal lockers where travellers can store valuables. Use them!
6. If lockers or storage aren’t available, always keep valuables on you, either in a soft, flat bag around your neck or under your pillow while you sleep.
7. Look for a hostel that has a 24-hour reception and security guards.
8. Find out where the nearest embassy is – they may be able to help if you have any problems.
9. Women may prefer to look for a women-friendly hostel, with female-only dorms and floors. Female-only rooms are offered at most hostels.
10. If you’re unhappy about sharing, look for a hostel with private rooms - they do exist.
11. Make sure the hostel you choose has a strict no-drugs policy and won’t tolerate excessive drunken behaviour.
12 Don’t get excessively drunk yourself – it makes you vulnerable.
What the expert says:
Will Jones, managing editor of the travel site www.gapyear.com, stresses staff are “deeply saddened” about the Queensland stabbings, but insists hostels are usually very safe.
“It’s perfectly understandable that backpackers, and indeed their parents, might now feel more nervous about staying in hostels,” he says.
“However, it’s important to note that events like this are extremely rare, and that the overwhelming majority of backpackers who stay in hostels in Australia and elsewhere never experience any sort of violence.”
He points out that hostels usually provide clean, safe, friendly and convenient accommodation for travellers on a budget, and Australia in particular has an excellent network.
“Most hostels have private rooms, so if a backpacker feels a bit daunted at the prospect of sharing a dormitory with strangers, there ‘s always that option,” he says.
“As tragic as this incident has been, it shouldn’t deter backpackers from visiting Australia and making use of this type of accommodation, as it’s by far the most viable.”
Have you stayed in hostels? Share your safety tips in the comments box below