Accommodation Safety: Hostels, Hotels & Airbnbs

Table Of Contents

    Hostels, Hotels and Airbnbs: Which type of accommodation is the safest?

    Nowadays there are many more options available when it comes to short-term accommodation for travelers. You can take your pick between low-budget hostels, five-star hotels, Airbnbs for a more local feel or B&Bs for a catered and personal touch. Another option growing in popularity is house sitting. But when it comes to safety, which of these options is the best?

    How safe are Hostels?

    Hostels provide shared dorm accommodations, appealing to budget-conscious travelers and a younger demographic. Dorm rooms in hostels vary in size, accommodating anywhere from four to fifty people in smaller or larger hostels. Some dorm rooms feature ensuite bathrooms, while others have shared facilities separated by gender.To enhance security, many modern hostels have implemented various measures, including 24-hour receptions, door locks, and key-card access restricted to specific corridors.

    Why are hostels great?

    There are a number of reasons a hostel may be the right choice for you ranging from budget to socializing. Here are a few of them:

    • Inexpensive accommodation

    • A social hotspot

    • Easy to make travel buddies as solo traveler

    • Useful amenities including wifi, free breakfast, laundry facilities, reasonably priced bars, booking services for inexpensive tours

    Petty Theft - A common crime in Hostels?

    Just like any other place, hostels are not immune to crimes. Given the communal nature of these accommodations, where numerous strangers coexist, the potential for criminal activities is heightened. However, by taking necessary precautions and ensuring your personal safety, you can effectively reduce the risks involved.

    The number one crime you will encounter in hostels is petty theft. With so many strangers in close quarters, it is easy to see why that is the case.

    Furthermore, we need to share that more serious crimes can happen. However, there are ways to protect yourself.

Download Vigilios

Your Pocket-Sized Travel Safety Guide

A phone displaying the Vigilios app and it's safety features.
App Store

    10 tips for staying in hostels

    To make sure you get the most of your hostel experience, there are a few helpful tips you can follow. Here we have compiled the most important ones:

    1. Choose the type of hostel carefully

    Did you know there are actually different categories of hostels, including youth hostels, party hostels, co-working hostels and even luxury hostels? Make sure that you choose the right option for you. If you are a solo traveler who would prefer to stay away from loud parties and copious amounts of alcohol, maybe a co-working or luxury hostel is a better option.

    2. If you feel unsafe solo, book a female dorm

    Depending on which country you are in, how much experience you have as a solo female traveler, or for any other reason, you may feel apprehensive about sharing a room with male strangers. If that is the case, you can filter your search for female dorms only on certain sites such as Hostel World.

    3. When in doubt, go private

    If there are no female dorms, you can pick a single room in the hostel instead. There are a few other reasons you might like a private room, as they tend to be cheaper than hotels and Airbnbs but still offer you the chance to escape and have your own space.

    4. Read the reviews before booking

    While staying at hostels can be the most incredible experience, you do need to pick the right one. Sadly, some hostels leave much to be desired, whether that is on the hygiene front or even more concerning the safety side of things. Therefore, carefully check up-to-date reviews of the place you have your eyes on and pay particular attention to anyone who mentions anything related to safety.

    5. Arrive during the day

    Especially when you are arriving to unfamiliar cities, it is a wise choice to do so during the day. Also, make sure to carry your booking information with you either as a note or screenshot on your phone or written down in a notebook.

    6. Ask staff for security advice

    Hostel staff are usually very friendly and helpful. They also know the city you are staying in very well. Therefore, go to them for advice in terms of areas to stay away from, common tourist traps and scams and anything else important about the city you are in.

    7. Keep your valuables extra-safe: Bring your own lock

    While at most hostels people seem really friendly, the truth is you do not know them very well, so it is smart to keep your wits about you. Therefore make sure to always lock up your valuables and never leave your electronics charging unsupervised, no matter how trustworthy you deem your roommates. Hostels tend to have lockers in rooms or common areas, so for extra safety bringing your own lock is recommended. Flexible luggage locks are best for accommodating different locker configurations. While lockers deter most opportunity thefts, determined professional thieves will be able to crack them if they really want to, which is why you want to travel light in terms of valuables. Some hostels offer extra safes for money and passports; if they do make use of them. If lockers or safes are unavailable, which should only very rarely be the case, you can consider bringing a portable safe.

    8. Hop on a tour or join an event

    Hostels usually offer many opportunities to socialize and meet fellow travelers. There may be walking tours, happy hours, trivia nights or larger trips by tour operators who work with the hostel. This is a great way to make friends with other travelers so you feel less alone and by proxy, this can make you feel safer.

    9. Inform the front desk of your whereabouts

    If you are traveling alone and want to make sure someone know where you are and when you are expected back, then you can inform the front desk of your plans for the day.

    10. Be cautious about sharing where you are staying

    While meeting new people while traveling can be especially fun, do not be too trusting with people you just met. Do not share the location at which you are staying with people you barely know.


    While we cannot guarantee 100% safety – no one can – staying in a hostel is overall a fairly safe experience and you should not let any initial worries put you off. If you follow the above tips and keep your wits about you, you should be absolutely fine.

    How safe are Hotels?

    While overall hotel stays tend to be very safe, there are instances when criminals exploit safety loopholes. According to a survey conducted by Global Secure Accreditation (GSA) and commissioned by YouGov, one in five business travelers in the UK either have personally experienced or are acquainted with someone who has fallen victim to crime while traveling for work.

    How to stay safe

    When planning your trip or vacation, finding the right hotel is crucial. While location and amenities are important, it is equally essential to prioritize security and safety. Aside from that you can take active steps in order to minimize the risk of becoming a target for criminals. Whether it is petty theft or something more sinister such as individuals following you to your room, it is not a bad idea to take some precautions to ensure that you do not offer individuals with bad intentions any further opportunity to do harm. Here are some tips on how to stay safe when staying in a hotel.

    1. Unpack in a well-lit area or near the hotel entrance

    Once you have chosen your safe hotel, there are some things to keep in mind upon arrival. When arriving at your hotel by car, you want to par and unpack your vehicle in a well-lit area, ideally near the entrance. After all, many thieves target travelers due to the likelihood of valuable items being left unattended in their cars. Therefore, no matter how long you are staying, it is a good idea to unload any valuable belongings from your vehicle. After all, isn’t it better to have to deal with a broken window than to risk losing something valuable or irreplaceable?

    2. Know the Emergency Exits

    Since you want to ensure your personal safety in case of emergency, make sure to make yourself aware of the emergency exits in your hotel. While some rooms may display notices outlining safety and evacuation procedures, including fire escape plans, it is unwise to assume that the exits will always be clear and easily recognizable.

    After checking in, look around to identify your nearest emergency exit. Locate fire exits at both ends of your hallway. Note the distance to each emergency exit in both directions and check if the doors open easily. Check out whether the exit signs are illuminated, and if they are not, let the front desk straight away.

    Another idea is to take a photo of the fire escape plan and the hotel safety checklist with your phone for quick access. This way, you can quickly access the information if needed.

    Also inspect whether the hotel complies with local safety regulations, including fire sprinklers and smoke detectors in rooms, hallways, and meeting areas.

    3. Use the latch

    Once you have entered your room, also be sure to confirm that it has a deadbolt lock and a peephole. Deadbolt locks are highly secure because they can't be easily opened with a knife or credit card due to their design.

    In addition to the regular lock, many hotels offer a latch. The latch can provide an extra layer of protection. While the aforementioned deadbolt prevents unauthorized access via duplicate keys, the latch prevents the door from being immediately opened if it is not bolted. By using both the latch and deadbolt, you add two additional and effective security measures to safeguard your room.

    4. Use the do not disturb sign

    Making use of the "do not disturb" sign hanging on your hotel room door is a good idea, as this will limit the amount of people attempting to gain access to your room. This way, you can quickly determine that someone attempting to enter your room is not a staff member. Unless you are overdue for check-out, well-trained hotel employees should refrain from disturbing you when the sign is displayed.

    In case the hotel needs to contact you, they will reach out through your room phone or cell phone. Therefore, if you hear a noise at the door despite having the sign out, it should raise a red flag since it is likely not a staff member. Call the front desk if this happens.

    5. Use a door stopper

    To give you one final extra layer of control over who enters your room, a compact, lightweight door stopper that can easily fit in a purse or bag is a great item to carry with you on every trip. Some hotels even have one as a standard room equipment.

    The most efficient door stoppers make use of the door's weight to redirect any external force towards the floor. Once fully secured, they remain firmly in place without any risk of loosening.

    This can give you ultimate peace of mind that no one will simply be able to enter your room unless you expressly say so.

    6. Use your last name rather than room number

    To enhance privacy and minimize the risk of someone with bad intentions overhearing your personal information, consider using your last name instead of your room number in public spaces. This way noone in the lobby or public area will be able to have access to that information.

    You also want to refrain from using your first name upon check in. You can just use the initial of your first name or a title such as Mr. or Ms. Reveal as little of your identity as possible in the hotel, to make it harder for a thief to impersonate you to gain access to your room.

    In terms of personal safety, you want to instruct the hotel not to disclose your name and room number, and request them to contact you if anyone inquires about you. Finally ask the front desk, if room telephones allow outside dialing, and make sure that guest phones in common areas do not allow direct room dialing.

    Furthermore, even if you misplace your key, there's no need to disclose your room number to the staff. Instead, you can simply present your identification, ensuring a secure and confidential process.

    How safe are Airbnbs?

    With over 2 million people reserving stays in homes every night, Airbnb has transformed from a small, quirky booking platform to a colossal player in the industry. It now offers more than 6 million listings worldwide. This means it outnumbers the available rooms in the top five hotel chains worldwide combined. This includes Marriott, the largest hotel company in the world with approximately 1.4 million rooms globally.

    But how safe is it to book accommodation on Airbnb? Here is a short overview of their safety policies.

    Digital Safety

    Airbnb ensures digital safety through secure payment and communication platforms, multi-factor authentication, and account alerts for changes.

    The company is the one who handles payment processing, ensuring that hosts do not have access to guests' card details. Hosts are further not allowed to request any money from guests outside of the Airbnb platform, both in-person and online. Moreover, if a host intends to modify the booking details, such as price or dates, they must obtain the guest's permission beforehand.

    Safety of Personal Information

    The safety of personal information can be a crucial concern when using Airbnb. However, not all your information can be accessed by anyone using the platform. While user profiles and bios are visible to other users, the contact information of guests and hosts, including phone numbers, remains hidden from each other until a booking is confirmed.

    Once a booking is confirmed, hosts gain access to the guest's phone number, while the guest's email address remains undisclosed. Even so, many hosts prefer to communicate with guests through Airbnb's messaging system rather than directly contacting them via phone. It also makes more sense for guests to do so, as this way Airbnb can see all the communication between the two parties in case of any disputes.

    Safety within the Airbnb homes

    While Airbnb provides free smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to hosts, it does not guarantee other important safety features such as multiple exits or code-compliant appliances. Additionally, not all Airbnb listings include safes for travelers’ personal belongings. Although Airbnbs may not have 24/7 lobby staffing like hotels, the AirCover program introduced in 2021 offers a 24-hour safety line accessible through the app.

    Safety from other individuals

    Airbnb ensures safety from other people by screening hosts and guests against watchlists and conducting background checks for hosts in the U.S. They employ machine learning to detect suspicious activity, including fraudulent listings.

    Aside from that, a 24/7 global customer service team is available to assist with various aspects of bookings, refunds, reimbursements, and insurance.

    You as a user can also pick listings with a high likeliness of being safe. Only look for Superhosts, as they have earned and maintained Airbnb’s highest standards. You can also read their bios before booking to get a feel for who they are as a person.

    Airbnb hosts also have the option to offer either a "host greets you" or a self check-in experience. "Host greets you" entails the host or co-host personally welcoming you at the property during check-in, providing a tour of the place, and sharing essential information. On the other hand, self check-in involves hosts sending instructions, which may include details on keypad access, retrieving keys from a doorman, or locating a key hidden under the front doormat. If you look for self-check in properties, this means you won’t even see your host when you check in and if the property is not attached to their own lodgings, it is highly likely you will never even see them at all throughout your stay.

    Possible issues & concerns when using Airbnb

    While overall Airbnb can be a great option, it needs to be said that it is not infallible. Here are some of the issues you may encounter if you go for an Airbnb:

    1. Possible cancellations Since Airbnb hosts are just regular individuals and do not have a large hotel staff, if anything happens to them such as health issues or emergencies of any kind, you may suddenly find yourself without accommodation only days before your trip.

    This happened to our Content Creator Laura when she booked an Airbnb outside of Melbourne in 2019. Only two short weeks before the flight date, the host got in touch to say they had broken their leg and couldn’t host. Of course by this time, the remaining rooms were three times as expensive.

    However, Airbnb was very helpful. Upon contacting them, they immediately agreed to book an alternative location selected by Laura at the same price as her original booking. In the end, Laura stayed in one of the most amazing houses she has ever seen at a fraction of what it would have normally cost.

    So, while getting your accommodation canceled only days before your trip can be initially very stressful, you can be fairly confident that Airbnb will sort the issue out for you.

    2. Scams on Airbnb While overall Airbnb is very thorough and scams are few and far in between, they can still happen. A research project revealed over 28,000 complaints about scams and 7,700 complaints regarding unsafe conditions on Airbnb based on public guest complaints published on Twitter between 2015 and 2020.

    Here are the most common ones and what to do if you encounter them:

    Some hosts may try to get you to cancel the booking for them. Be aware that doing so could affect your refund. Airbnb determines reimbursement based on who initiates the cancellation. To avoid problems, politely refuse the host's request and let them know you won't cancel for them.

    If a listing appears too good to be true or has suspicious details, it's safer to choose another one. To avoid the danger of falling for fake listings, prioritize listings with high ratings (4.8 or higher), a significant number of reviews (20+), and clear photos of the bedroom, bathroom, and entrance. Make sure the listing's details and host bio are properly filled out.

    Be cautious if a host asks you to switch rooms, as it could be a deceptive tactic or an attempt to accommodate multiple guests in a single listing. Regardless of the host's reasoning, you have the right to decline the request and stay in the room you originally booked. If the host insists on the switch, you can contact Airbnb for assistance.

    If a host asks you to pay them directly, it goes against Airbnb's payment terms. Additionally, your host should not request money from you after your arrival. If this happens, deny the request and inform the host that this violates Airbnb's terms. If the host persists or makes you uncomfortable, report them to Airbnb.

    Instances of hosts falsely claiming damage by guests have also been reported. Hosts may manipulate images or intentionally present their place as damaged to support their claim. To mitigate the risk of false claims, take photos of the property upon arrival and departure, and consider sharing them with the host to establish dated proof of the property's condition.

    So, while getting your accommodation canceled only days before your trip can be initially very stressful, you can be fairly confident that Airbnb will sort the issue out for you.

    3. Conflicts between host and guest Despite many safeguards, there is still a potential for conflict between guests and hosts. These could include disputes over property damages, misrepresentation in the listing or safety concerns such as faulty locks.

    In case of any problems or disputes between hosts and guests, Airbnb serves as a mediator. Both hosts and guests have the option to raise a case to Airbnb's Help Center. Airbnb carefully reviews the details of the case, including any evidence provided, and takes appropriate action based on its company policies. This may include determining compensation or resolution between the parties involved.

    Never leave the app

    To safeguard your personal information, it is important to never share your contact details with a host or make payments outside of the Airbnb platform. Utilize Airbnb's website or app for all communication and transactions, benefitting from their multi-layer defense strategy.

    Chat with the host before booking/arrival

    Prior to booking or arrival, ask the host questions about the listing to familiarize yourself with them and address any concerns regarding the stay, location, or check-in process. Trust your instincts and refrain from booking if something feels amiss.


    Airbnb generally provides a comparable level of safety to hotels and can sometimes offer even greater safety measures. It implements enhanced cleaning protocols to minimize the risk of disease transmission, offers secure messaging and payment platforms, and allows ample opportunities to engage with hosts, review feedback from previous guests, and contact Airbnb for assistance in case of any changes to plans.

    We hope we could provide you with a relevant overview on what to consider when booking your accommodation abroad!

    If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to contact us at


A profile picture of Ana-Marija Autischer
by Ana-Marija Autischer
The visionary Founder & CEO of Vigilios, where her extensive research into travel safety over the past two years has positioned her at the forefront of the industry. With a keen eye for innovation, she translates complex safety concepts into practical advice for travelers worldwide.

Download the App

Map, Insights & Support - Vigilios is your Personal Safety Companion

A phone displaying the Vigilios app and it's safety features.
App Store QR LinkApp Store
Google Play QR Link
Coming soon to Android
Google Play