Most hostels offer both mixed and same-sex dormitories, and while male-only dorms are not nearly as common, the female-only dorm is, for the most part anyway, a hostel standard around the world.
The female-only dorm exists to give travellers of the female variety the choice of sharing sleeping quarters with other girls solely, or with both guys & gals.
Why the same option is rarely afforded to male travellers is debatable, but the female only dorm concept is perhaps, arguably, a sad reflection of what ought to be by now an antiquated culture in which the ‘entitled male’ is deemed a potential threat to the ‘vulnerable female’. Archaic as that might seem to most of us coming into 2018, it’s a generalisation which sadly seems to be justified all too much in society, and inherent in too many cultures still – one need only look as far as Hollywood, and the prevalence of the social #MeToo campaign (and the different regional movements it has since inspired) highlighting harassment across many sectors of society, to understand that unwelcome harassment is a very real issue and one which is experienced, in the main, by women and inflicted, in the main, by men.
And while hostel culture is one based on mutual respect, equality, and social interaction, it is, of course, not immune to the same elements that taint society at large. Having worked in a hostel, I've had solo female travellers ask to be moved to a different room (though not always to a female only dorm specifically) due to being made feel uncomfortable by a guy or guys in their dorm coming on too strongly. Thankfully, I can count those instances on one hand in my seven years behind the hostel desk, but it's fair to say that it would be foolish to think it doesn't happen in hostels.
It would also be fallacious to suggest that the demand for female-only dorm options in hostels is based purely on less sinister generalisations; “girls are less messy than boys”, well, of course they’re not. “Boys get drunk and stumble back to the dorm at all hours”, some, yes, but so too do some girls – that’s a part of hostel life. “Boys snore and fart in their sleep”, this is surely not unique to boys only. “Girls just prefer to be with other girls”, not true for many girls, of course.
[caption id="attachment_4947" align="aligncenter" width="535"] A tongue-in-cheek depiction of the female dorm at Lub d hostel, Bangkok Silom[/caption]
The concept of female-only dorms in hostels exists ultimately for girls, particularly solo travellers, who might feel that bunking with other girls exclusively, provides a sense of safety and general comfort they might not enjoy in a mixed dorm; being able to dress / undress in the room without feeling sexualised, for example. The ‘locker-room’ vibe of the same-sex dorm perhaps affords a less self-conscious environment than the mixed dorm scenario. And while uninvited advances from guys might be the bane of a girl’s night out, and normalised as ‘par for the course’ at the bar or club, why should one be expected to tolerate such behaviour where they will sleep (and have paid for the privilege)? – not to assume that those things are bound to happen just because a guy and a girl are in a mixed dorm, of course not, but there is undoubtedly a solace to be enjoyed knowing that you are far less likely to experience those things in a female-only room.
There is a genuine demand for female-only accommodation, indeed the fact there are entirely female-only hostels in existence speaks volumes about that idea. Although it may be a regrettable positive in a hostel’s offering, the female-only dorm is unequivocally preferred over mixed dorms by many girls, for whatever reason - be it cultural / religious, preference of room-mates, or general safety or comfort concerns, and as such, it is a responsible response to travellers’ wants, and a near essential service for any good hostel to offer.
Hostels have really upped their game in the last decade or so in terms of improving the hostel product – investment in design, style, facilities, features, services etc. has well and truly banished the ‘no-frills, basic bunk’ hostel model to the fond memories of older backpackers; and indeed many hostels’ female-dorms are no longer characterised purely by segregation, but are effectively commercialised to appeal to the needs of the ‘typical’ female traveller.
Many hostels’ female dorms now feature full length mirrors, quality lighting, dedicated areas for doing make-up, lots of hooks, wardrobes, hairdryers & straighteners, luxurious décor, plush furnishings, and other quintessentially ‘girl-friendly’ features.
For example, Ecomama in Amsterdam have really gone all out with their decidedly 'girly' ladies-only dorm, opting for antique white beds instead of the usual bunks, and providing free nail polish, tampons, & magazines on top of hairdryers & straighteners.
While Abbey Court hostel in Dublin have a dedicated snug as a vanity area, just off of their female dorm & showers, complete with lighting and cosmetic mirrors reminiscent of a backstage dressing room - the ideal place for any girl to get ready with much more ease than is normally afforded in a standard hostel dorm.
Lub d, an excellent chain of four relatively new hostels in Bangkok (Silom & Siam), Phuket Patong, and Siem Reap, Cambodia, offer exquisite female only dorms in each of their properties, with ‘Ladies Deluxe Dorms’ including separate lockers & changing areas, and their female dorm descriptions on Hostelculture.com stating “Strictly for the ladies, this section offers extra lounge space….feel super safe with your own electronic key card that accesses the ladies’ section, and the room itself” and “Where the boys aren’t, these elegant dorms offer a large shared bathroom designed exclusively for women…”.
[caption id="attachment_4950" align="aligncenter" width="400"] ladies' dorm - spacious & with dedicated changing areas, & complimentary cosmetics at Lub d hostels[/caption]
Obviously, this kind of added value is based to a great extent on gender stereotypes, but there is evidently an appeal & appreciation for such efforts as these rooms are proving very popular and are very well received among female travellers.
You can select ‘female dorms’ from the facilities filter on HostelCulture.com to view hostels in your selected destination that include female-only dorms as part of their offering and, of course, you can book them cheaper than on other booking sites too, guaranteed!
That’s it for now hostellers, thanks for reading and we’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject too. What do you think about female dorms? Girls, do you prefer a female dorm over a mixed dorm, or not? Tell us about your experiences in each. Guys, how do you feel about girls having slightly better odds of getting a hostel bed in busy places at busy times, thanks to female dorms? Share your thoughts on the topic in the comments below – we’d love to hear your opinions.
Written by Ray, listening to Sousou & Maher Cissoko, and The Eskies