Here at Go! Girl Guides, we do not believe that theft in hostels is a rampant problem, or that people are inherently out to steal from you.
However, when the opportunity presents itself to take, say, an iPhone, iPod, laptop, or something else of value, sometimes, people steal. It’s unfortunate, but also the reality of staying in a hostel.
Which brings us to a very important point – ALWAYS lock up your valuables in a hostel.
Even if everyone sharing your dorm room is very friendly and open. Even if other people leave out their belongings. Even if you’re only going upstairs for an hour – don’t risk it.
Chances are you don’t know everyone staying in the building, and just because you wouldn’t take something that didn’t belong to you, doesn’t mean that someone else won’t. Protecting yourself from theft while traveling, and certainly protecting from theft in hostels, means being extra vigilant and not letting your guard down.
Seems like common sense, right? You’d be surprised how many times we heard that someone got something stolen throughout our travels in Mexico, and it was always because the traveler left something out in the open for an extended period of time. Don’t let this be you!
Here are some great tips on how to protect from theft in hostels and while traveling.
1. Stay in a hostels with big lockers
The first defense you have against theft in hostels is usually built in to the experience. Most hostels have big lockers somewhere. Ideally, they’re going to be either under the bed or near the bed, within eyesight of where you’re staying. Use them.
If something doesn’t fit in your locker that you wouldn’t want stolen, store it out of sight, like under your pillow, or between the sheets.
2. Pack a lock and use it!
Doesn’t matter if it’s a lock and key or a combination, just use a lock! You can also look into the cables that Pacsafe makes that are virtually impossible to cut through.
If you do decide to go with a lock and key situation, make sure the key is always on you. I know, it sounds like such common sense advice, but remember, most people who steal do so because it’s convenient.
3. Only leave electronics to charge when you’re in the room.
If you’re leaving the room, your phone is leaving the room with you. If you are charging your iPad, it goes back into the locker when you leave the room — not tucked under the pillow or loosely in the sheets. That’s a super easy and not so hard to find hiding spot.
4. Split up large sums of money into different compartments of your carry on and backpack
Theft in hostels happens — especially when you have cash. Split up your money into different areas. That way, if someone comes upon some cash, it won’t be all of it. We have other tips for how and where to best hide your money while traveling. Study up!
5. Carry a small bag that you will always have on you
If you’re passing through a tourist destination for the day on your way to somewhere else (like Chichen Itza, for example) and have all of your stuff, you’ll probably have to store them at a bag check. If there are no lockers and only an attendant, keep everything with you that you wouldn’t want taken, like credit cards, passport, computer, etc in your small bag. When you’re on the bus, always keep this bag in your lap or between you and the side of the bus. Don’t ever put it above your seat or below your feet.
6. Don’t be paranoid – be cautious!
Common sense is the most powerful weapon you have against theft in hostels, hotels and while traveling.
** This post will also be part of our upcoming Go! Girl Guides: Mexico; A Girl’s Guide to Traveling in Mexico which will be out in July of 2011. Stay tuned! **