Are Hostels Safe for Solo Female Travelers? Including Black Women?

by Sojourner

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“Are hostels safe for solo female travelers?” is a common question I get asked as a Black solo female traveler. And to be honest, I understand. However, the idea of going to a whole new country and sleeping next to strangers in $10 bunk beds sounds creepy and unsafe.

At the beginning of my solo travel career, I did have some skepticism. There were not many Black students in my study abroad program in Spain, let alone staying in hostels. And as a Black solo female traveler, I had to be mindful of where I went all the time, and hostels seemed like a recipe for disaster.

In reality, though, hostels are not as sketchy as they seem! I’ve stayed in over 30 hostels (and counting) worldwide – with Hostelworld being my favorite hostel search engine. So I am familiar with what it’s like to stay in a hostel in the U.S and abroad for a memorable travel experience. Here are my best hostel safety tips for solo female travelers and why I think hostels are safe for us.

Why should solo female travelers stay in hostels?

As a Black solo traveler and hostel advocate, I love the atmosphere of hostels. They are a quick and easy way to get social interaction without needing to plan a group trip. And if you choose a private room, you get solitude on your solo trip and can socialize in the lounge instead of with bunkmates in a dorm.

Booking a hostel is incredible for solo travelers because you can also get an all-female dorm. Safety is a huge issue for solo female travelers. Providing this option makes many solo travelers feel more secure about staying in a hostel.

Why are hostels so cheap?

People are always curious about why hostels are so cheap – so this is another excellent question. The low price of hostels adds to their mystery for many solo female travelers. Many people associate cheap accommodations with a lack of safety infrastructure or poor quality. However, it is not the case with every hostel.

Now there are sketchy cheap hostels – I do not deny that! I did have one, not so good hostel experience in Athens, Greece. But for me, it is not the norm. Some reasons why hostels are cheap include:

  • Being staffed by volunteers, aka young broke travelers who cannot afford accommodations in the destination, so they work at the hostel in exchange for a room
  • Splitting up their rooms with the dorms and bunk beds means you split the cost of one room with multiple people
  • Needing to attract broke budget travelers means their survival is based on keeping their prices low to fill the beds
  • Providing lower quality but still good amenities to the guests

Are hostels safe for solo female travelers? And how do you find safe hostels?

It is hard to determine if a hostel is “safe” online. Hostels often amp up the aesthetics to attract solo travelers worldwide. Don’t let a colorful, social media-worthy hostel fool you. Though there is no 100% safety guarantee, here are some ways to help you find safe hostels:

Eating area in Hostel Candelaria

Read the reviews

When booking on a website such as Hostelworld, you can read about people’s experiences in a hostel. There is also an overall ranking on a scale of 1-10, with ten being the best. Browse through the reviews and note any red flags (or green flags) someone may have pointed out while staying in your hostel of choice.

Google and research the hostel name

Finding a safe hostel can mean doing a bit of digging. First, an old-fashioned Google search of the hostel name and location can yield any red flags. Next, go to the “news” section to see if any incidents have been reported or if news articles are written. You may even find other travel bloggers who have written about their experiences to help you.

Join Facebook travel groups

Whether you love or hate it, Facebook is a great travel resource! To get more insight on whether a hostel is safe, join a solo travel group and ask about other travelers’ experiences at a hostel. You never know; someone may have insight and a story to tell. For Black solo female travelers, consider a solo travel group or a Black travel group.

Hostel safety tips for solo female travelers

Check for all-female dorms or private rooms

Hostels offer a variety of room options. For women traveling solo, I would recommend all-female dorms or private rooms. The all-female dorms were explicitly created to make solo female travelers feel safe. Also, consider choosing a dorm room with fewer beds. Fewer people mean less to worry about in the space.

This is not to say you are unsafe in a mixed dorm. However, many solo female travelers are uncomfortable sharing sleeping space with men they do not know. I have done it and lived to tell the tale. But it is genuinely based on your comfort level.

Trust your gut

The best hostel safety tip is to trust your gut. Your intuition is correct, but our bodies can tell us whether to go in fight or flight mode. When in doubt, follow that feeling.

Sleep with your wallet and passport 

My best hostel safety tip for solo female travelers is sleeping with your valuables. I stuff mine in my pillow or near my head. It makes it more difficult for someone to rummage through my things and find them. And if someone does take my other stuff, at least I’ll have my wallet and passport.

Lock up your belongings

When you book a dorm, pack a lock! Unlike private rooms, dorms are shared. Therefore, it is recommended to bring a lock. Most hostels also sell locks.

Do your hostel research

As mentioned in the “how to find safe hostels” section, doing your research is critical. Take time to scroll through the reviews. Ask around in travel groups you know of about your hostel. And don’t forget to do some Google and Pinterest searches to find additional reviews.

Choose a hostel in a central location

In addition to doing your research, another hostel safety tip is to pick a decent location. Hostels in central areas are more congested with people. However, those downtown hostels are safer due to how much foot traffic they receive. While there is nothing wrong with a secluded hostel, being farther away means help taking longer if there’s an emergency.

Change your clothes in the bathroom

To avoid uncomfortable flashing in a dorm, get privacy when you can in a hostel. For example, change your clothes in the bathroom or the corner of the hostel room. Though an odd hostel safety tip, a little privacy naturally makes you feel more comfortable and secure.

Tell reception to write down your room number

When the staff says your room number aloud, it can feel like an announcement that you’re solo. A trick I’ve learned along the way is to make people think you are not solo. One way is by asking hostel reception to write your room number at check-in. This tip is good if someone notices you are solo upon arrival and tries to know what room you are staying in at the hostel. 

Keep your phone charged

For all solo female travelers, I am an advocate for keeping your phone charged. We use it to navigate, entertain, and utilize in case of emergencies. Chances are your phone also includes a flashlight which is helpful when getting into your dorm late at night or early in the morning. Get a portable charger to keep it charged for when you need it.   

Make friends

Getting to know people can be a great way to feel safer in a hostel. The comradery grown from being strangers to friends can change your hostel perspective. This one is the best of all the hostel safety tips for solo female travelers. Making a new friend for a trip or maybe even a lifetime is always a good idea.

My experience being a Black solo female traveler in a hostel

As an avid hostel traveler and a Black solo female traveler, I enjoy my hostel experiences. Before I started staying in hostels solo, I considered Airbnbs instead. However, I missed the social aspects of hostels. I think having the opportunity to socialize or retreat to my room is the flexibility I enjoy catering to my ambivert personality.

The most significant part about being a Black solo female traveler who loves hostels is the cultural differences. Even though travel is all about embracing cultures, as a Black solo traveler, I can tell when I’m the first Black person someone has spoken to at length. You are interacting with people around the globe, so keep an open mind. 

However, I will say that more Black people approach me than non-Black people in hostels. I believe there is a bit of camaraderie amongst us Black solo travelers to stick together, especially considering you won’t find a ton of Black travelers in hostels. It bonds us, and I find I have to approach non-Black people first most of the time.

Overall the staff is always accommodating, and the activities are well-planned! Hostel staff take security seriously and do not want harm to come to hostel travelers. I’ve even befriended some of them on my trips and had amazing conversations. 

The verdict: are hostels safe for solo female travelers?

As I always say, safety is relative and can mean different things to everyone. Anything can happen anywhere. But in my personal experience, hostels are safe for solo female travelers, including my fellow Black women. Traveling solo as a woman means there is always an extra layer of precaution we must take in the world. 

Yet, hostels have been my choice since 2015 and have delivered 99% of the time. Remember to stay alert and trust your gut inside and outside hostels. Solo traveling takes a lot of trust in the unknown, so start small and practice traveling closer to home first. Then work your way up to that solo travel experience in a hostel. When you do, I hope you can have an enjoyable experience too!

Are you looking for more hostel tips and tricks? Check out this post full of hostel travel tips.

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