First time solo female travelers typically have one common question when it comes to theirfirst time staying in hostels: Is it safe to stay in mixed dorms?
This is an question you have to answer for yourself, as only you know what you’re comfortable with.
You should first map out your concerns. Are you comfortable changing in front of guys (or will you always need to change in the bathroom)? How do you feel about sharing that bathroom with them?
I’ve stayed in countless dorm rooms throughout my travels, including a handful where I was the only girl, and have never had a bad experience. There are some hostels that only have mixed dorms or all female dorm beds could be booked, so this is an important topic for female travelers.
Sharing Spaces with Guys
Let’s be honest. If you’ve ever lived with a guy, you know that it’s totally different than living with a girl. But whatever problems you’ve experienced with roommates can be said of either gender: messiness, snoring, being loud at night, doing inappropriate things while others are around, etc. Keep the odds in your favor by booking a smaller sized mixed dorm if possible. You sure won’t get any sleep in that 24 bed mixed dorm!
Keeping Different Hours
If your concern is that your dorm mates, male or female, will come in late at night drunk and loud, this is a reasonable concern, but also a possibility in all female dorms. We recommend checking out the reviews of your hostel in advance to see if it’s a “party hostel.” Look for red flags like “in-house bar,” “free shot with check-in,” and “pub crawl.”
If you get into your room and see that it’s all or mostly guys, don’t panic. Hostels are all about trust. The staff should be around most of the time should you run into any problems. But if your gut is telling you to switch rooms, ask the desk if there is another mixed dorm available where there are also females staying.
Items to Make Your Stay More Comfortable
- Sarong: Use a sarong to cover yourself while changing and to wear to and from the showers. You can also tuck it into your bottom bunk to use as a privacy curtain.
- Pajamas: I typically sleep in something more substantial than my t-shirt and undies when I’m in a mixed dorm in case I need to get up in the middle of the night.
- Eye mask and earplugs: If you are staying in a place where your roommates are likely to come in late at night, come prepared with sleep aids.
- Febreze: Keep the unsavory smells of dorm rooms under control with a room spray.
- Lock: You should travel with a lock at any hostel, not just when staying in a mixed dorm.
Alternatives to Mixed Dorms
Most of the time you can avoid mixed dorms altogether if you’re not comfortable with the idea. Look for smaller sized rooms, female dorms, private rooms or even apartment rentals. More and more hostels are turning towards female only rooms with amenities like free towels and hairdryers.
Among the recommended female-only hostels are:
- Cairns Girls Hostel in Cairns, Australia
- Anadin Female Hostel in Budapest, Hungary
- The Oasis in London, England
- Papaya Female Youth Hostel in Rome, Italy
If you want to keep the social atmosphere of co-ed hostels but have your own ladies-only room, check out the rooms at PLUS Hostels, Base, St. Christopher’s, Jazz or LubD.
Book Your Hostel: Search on Booking.com for your destination’s options.
>> You might also be interested in our post on female travel safety or couchsurfing as a solo female.
ZA @ The Girl Who Cry Wolf says
Interesting post and a timely one too! I’m currently traveling in Japan. In Tokyo and currently in Kawaguchiko (yes, this very moment), I stayed in mixed dorms.
In Tokyo, for the first night, I was the only female surrounded by the guys. Worry not, they were very polite and I heard no snores at all. Certainly a decent and polite bunch of guys. Unfortunately, on my second and third nights, there was a change in the bunk mates dynamics – there were some other females. Boy, who say that females don’t snore? Ok, ok, I should rephrase to who say females don’t snore like guys? There was this girl who snored the nights away continuously like a drunk truck driver, and of course, she was dead drunk when she returned to the room.
Now, in Kawaguchiko, I think there’s only a single guy (there’s not many of us in the dorm, and the rest are females. Again, no prize for winning the best snorer award. My right neighbor and another one from ‘behind me’ were competing for the best award. Hence why I’m awake at this hour, instead of sleeping.
I guess just go with your gut feel. If you feel uncomfortable, check with hostel for alternative room arrangement. 🙂
Haha thanks for sharing. Yes girls can snore just as bad as guys, so it really is just luck of the draw when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.
In Auckland, NZ I stayed in an all-girl suite at Base Hostel. I booked the all-girl room since I wasn’t sure what to expect in a mixed room. It was a great experience, but I think it would have been fine in the mixed dorms too. The hostel was really clean and it was easy to see security was a priority.
I was with a group of guys and girls and stayed in a mixed dorm in hostels in Nairobi (Upper Hill Campsite & Backpackers) and Kampala (Red Chilli Hideaway). I would highly recommend both. Knowing most of the guys in the room was a big help, but I don’t think I would have been bothered even if I had been by myself. My strategy is always to grab a lower bunk in a corner somewhere, away from the door and the high traffic areas of the room. That has worked out well for me so far!
Melissa - The Mellyboo Project says
I’ve stayed in both and honestly I wouldn’t even think twice about staying in a mixed dorm – it would just happen naturally. From my experience most guys tend to be pretty respectful of the girls that they are rooming with. Yeah sometimes they smell like boy, and sometimes they snore – but I’ve been woken up at all hours of the night thanks to both guys and girls coming in and out of the dorm room, bringing home a ‘cuddle buddy’ and snoring (from both guys and girls). I’ve even found girls to be more messier than guys.
That being said, when I first started staying in hostels I stayed in a female-only, and to be honest, I didn’t quite enjoy it as much. There seemed to be a bit of clique-iness to the group, and I can honestly say I much prefer mixed dorms.
Now… all THAT being said… I feel like I’m getting to the point where I do cherish my sleep and privacy, and I’m not too sure how much more I will be staying in dorm rooms, period.
I’ve stayed in both and had mixed experiences. When I was in Amsterdam, I stayed in an all female dorm and had no problems, whatsoever. In fact, everyone was very polite and set on being quiet so as not to disturb everyone else in the room. I’ve also stayed in a mixed dorm in Brussels and had no problem.
However, my hostel in Bruges was a different story. I was staying in a hostel with their own bar, and Euro happy hour drinks. Needless to say, some travelers got a little out of hand. While I was sleeping, one of the males in the dorm apparently thought it would be funny to stick his hand under my blankets and try to -ahem- insert his fingers where they should not have been. He and his friends laughed and ran off when it woke me up, but I did not get a glimpse of them (it was dark, and I didn’t have my contacts in). I informed the management but, since I didn’t see who it was, they couldn’t do anything about it.
It was a disturbing experience, and it shook me, but I do not think that it will prevent me from staying in a mixed dorm in the future. Next time I will probably stay away from a hostel with its own bar and wear pj bottoms instead of a nightgown and hope that it will keep the idiots away.
Wow Savannah – that’s horrible and I’m sorry you had to deal with that!
I have always stayed in mixed-dorm rooms and have had the greatest luck with my temporary roommates. One night in Dublin, I actually was in a co-ed dorm, but it turned out to be a room full of females. I found that experience to be much different than sharing with men. Not to be stereotypical or stir debate, but I found staying in a room full of women, the room was a terrible mess! Women dumped their bags everywhere, whereas the men I shared rooms with always kept their piles neat and tidy (or left their stuff in their bags on their bed or in their locker). Personally, I enjoyed the co-ed dorms much better than female only.
It also seemed that the women-only rooms were like a small high school clique that I had no interest in getting involved in! Guys definitely tend to be respectful when you’re staying with them, and they’re usually extremely courteous when it comes to line ups in the bathrooms as well!
So far I have not had to book a co-ed dorm room at hostels, always able to get a bed at female only. I have not had negative experience yet (fingers crossed). Regardless of age difference (I am their mom’s age), politeness never failed. In 30 years I have yet to deal with brats who would make loud noises after hours, stay in the bath for more than an hour, or make a mess in the shower.
The only time I dealt with a male roommate was 2 years ago in Rome. My room has 2 beds and the manager already told me that it’s co-ed. I had a young man for a roommate for 4 nights. He’s quiet, clean, organized, and respected my preference to not talk (I was slightly sick).
In recent years I book single rooms or 2 to 4 person in suite rooms in pricier budget hotels (I stay away from big chain hostels full of young people). In my 20’s and 30’s I did only extreme budget traveling because I was young enough to sleep thru ruckus and noise and poor enough to make do with ramen noodle for dinner. The perk of being older and financially sound is to spend $ where it counts.