So I have heard over and over that the best place to keep your passport, etc. in your hotel safe while you are out during the day. We are staying in hostels (shared rooms), so of course there won't be a safe. Do you think we will be better off carrying it all in a money belt or locking it in one of the hostel lockers? Are those really secure enough to store my passport etc?
My passport, driver's license, a few ATM cards, and large cash cache are always in my neck wallet, around by neck and with me. That is the only thing I trust.
When I've stayed in hostels I've even slept in my moneybelt. It is not uncomfortable if worn in the back. I take the moneybelt with me to the shower and put it into a plastic bag while I bathe.
While I am gone during the day, I wear the moneybelt and I fasten my bag to my bed with a lock so it can't just be grabbed. I would guess that one of the reasons that hostels are locked during the middle of the day is to prevent thefts. Of course, that is when cleaning is done, too.
I have stayed in hostels in spain and london. I remember quite a few of them having lockers. You may want to contact your hostel and ask. I remember having to provide my own lock.
When traveling aboard, my passport, ATM card, credit cards (for huge emergencies, return airline ticket and Rail Pass never leaves my body). I have a neck wallet which insures me I know where they are at all times.
I know I can survive even if I lose my luggage and day back pack.
I've never used a hotel safe at a hostel. I never thought about it.
I have two levels of security in a hostel.
One level is my general stuff. I keep that locked up in my locker when it's not physically with me.
The second level is important stuff, passport, credit card, debit card, tickets, cash. This I keep with me all the time. Even if you don't lose your credit card, someone can copy the information on it and make fraudulent purchases.
The theft at hostels is generally petty theft. Someone grabs something when they have an opportunity (usually left unattended). Cash and credit cards can be a great target and lockers aren't a lot better than leaving it in a parked car. I think it's better to keep it with you and not worry.
Thanks for the replies, everyone! Sounds like my initial hunch was correct -- I will most likely keep everything with me in some kind of hidden money belt. The BF is probably going to think I'm ridiculous, but it'll make me feel safer. And since we're going in October, it should be even easier to conceal it under/between layers of clothing.
My suggestion would be to keep important documents and credit cards with you in a well hidden Money Belt (that's the method I prefer).
Hostel Lockers are generally "safe" and if properly secured most people don't have any problems. However I've found that most Lockers (especially in Hostels) are not very robust and often constructed with very light metal. It wouldn't be difficult to gain access with a few basic hand tools.
In addition the locking mechanisms are not the best. The Lockers at one Hostel I stayed at recently only had a simple "Cam Lock", secured by a Padlock. These would have been very easy to pry open. In addition, many Hostel visitors tend to use cheap Padlocks (including luggage locks) which are VERY easily compromised)!
Leave your Backpack locked and if you wish you can also chain it to the bed. One thing to keep in mind is that the Hostel KNOWS who has access to your shared room, as they have the Passport details for every resident on file. Therefore, it's not as easy to commit "anonymous theft", even in a Hostel.
Hostel or hotel or B&B, it's a money belt. I always sleep with my money belt on, it's only off while I shower.
I knew of someone who had their bag stolen in a hotel breakfast room, right off the chair beside them, they had to replace passport and everything. Just get out enough cash for the short term, like Rick says. If you take two cards, one of them can stay in your moneybelt even during the short time the other one is used in the ATM.
I can't agree with Ken's statement that all the hostels in Europe know who is staying in your room because they have everyone's passport details. I have personally stayed in a few European hostels (Northern Ireland, Belgium) where I was never asked to produce a copy of my passport upon check-in, therefore, they did not have my details.
Also, petty theft from a hostel room doesn't necessarily always occur by another occupant of your particular room. The problem I have found when staying in hostels is that I would often come back to the hostel to find other occupants of my room left the door propped open while they ran down the hall to make a phone call, do laundry or take a shower. This left the room open to anyone who may wander past.
I've also stayed in a few hostels which did not have lockers in the rooms at all and the only recourse was to lock the zipper tabs on my backpack and use a cable lock to secure it to a heavy fixed object in the room. Most petty theft at hostels happens when people leave cash, iPods, mobile phones and laptops laying about the room - stuff that is easy to grab quickly. It's a very small likelihood your fellow hostelers are toting hand tools in their bags to saw through lockers or hack off padlocks. Keep your expensive stuff on you when you can and use a heavy duty padlock for lockers - not a cheap luggage lock.
When I first started traveling I remember being very paranoid about the security of all of my stuff. Now I realize it is just stuff so I leave the irreplaceable things at home and only carry things with me that can be replaced.
In hostels, I sleep and bathe with my valuables. I started to tuck the larger things like iPod under the bottom sheet in the curve of where I sleep on my side. I'd like to think I'd wake up if someone was messing with my stuff next to body under the body sheet. Under the pillow isn't good enough.
Another trick I learned was to remove the memory card from your camera if you leave it in your room or for the night. That way all you would lose is the camera.
I've only had one incident where theft occurred in a hostel while I was sleeping. In Milan, I was in a shared 6 bed female room. I only had a small backpack with a pair of pjs and the clothes I was wearing. My things were soaked and I left them hanging to dry and I remember thinking that I hope someone doesn't steal my clothes. I fell fast asleep with earplugs and eye shades and woke up to hear that another woman in the room had her locker broken into and all of her valuables and money had been stolen. The lockers were out in the hall.
The only thing that had been stolen from me was the room key which I left on the bedside table under my towel. I didn't use the locker so I suppose they just discarded the key. Pretty creepy that a person was that close to me and even lifted my things while I was sleeping.
Anyway... I am all for hostels even after that incident... just remember to relax and be smart about your valuables.