Are you a Muslim woman? Have you ever wanted to save money when travelling but don’t know how to navigate gender at a hostel? Read on!
Hostels with female-only dorm rooms are available. They are usually slightly more expensive since demand is lower. But they are MUCH cheaper than booking a hotel room, particularly if you are travelling alone and can’t split the cost of a hotel.
How to find a female-only dorm room
Hostelworld.com has a specific filter for female-only dorm rooms. This makes it much easier to book because you can filter out to only the hostels that have female dorms available during your stay. You can book your bed directly on the website. Unfortunately, they also show you the other available room prices in the listing (for example, mixed dorms) so you have to click into view each hostel listing separately, scroll down, and check the price of a bed in the female dorm.
Click filter under the search bar. This will open up more tabs: price, room, facilities, etc.
Click room, followed by female dorm. This will filter your search results to only the hostels that have female dorm beds available.
This is a screenshot of the main listing page. Note the price of “SOOK Café” for 199 baht.
Here you can see that the price given for a female dorm bed is actually 270 baht rather than the 199 baht shown on the main listing. 199 baht is actually for a mixed dorm.
Choosing a hostel
Hostel rooms are usually cramped; the beds are close together and often travellers keep their belongings sprawled out on the floor. This makes it tricky for praying salah. Try to get a hostel where the beds have curtains then you can at least pray salah on your knees in the privacy of your bed. Photos on the hostel listing can help with this, although they may not always be accurate. Also, look for information or photos that mention separate gendered washrooms if possible—although this information usually isn’t available in advance. You more likely than not to be in a hostel with separate gendered washrooms so this is not something you should worry about but be prepared for in case it happens.
Checking into your hostel
When you check in at the hostel reception, confirm that they have booked you in for a female dorm and that there are only ladies staying in the room. Sometimes there could be miscommunication between the booking site and the hostel itself. Although I don’t remember this ever happening to me, it’s not unthinkable that such a mistake could be made. It’s better to avoid surprises like when a German guy strolls into the room in only his boxers. Often the hostel doesn’t have their female dorm available because they want to maximize profit and may have not receive enough bookings for the female-only room. While this is unlikely to happen, stay firm and tell the hostel staff that you either are staying in a female-only room or you are moving to another hostel.
As mentioned above, try to find out if the hostel has separate gendered washrooms. It’s better if they have separate floors but this is really hard to find.
Invest in a light cardigan or robe that you can wear to and from the washroom. You can change from inside the shower stall after showering. If you wear hijab then it’s not much of an issue to throw it on before finishing brushing your teeth out of the stall.
To give an example, at one hostel I was staying at there was a bathroom that had a wall in the middle of the entrance but not really any doors. To make things worse, as I entered the bathroom I saw that there were urinals on the wall with no barrier. I asked the hostel owner (or staff) if there was a female only washroom and she directed me upstairs where only female guests were staying.
However, when I woke up in the night and went to prepare for fajr I was (luckily) in the toilet stall and heard the noise of the urinal. I didn’t think that anyone would be up that early using the washroom as this hostel was very small and had hardly any guests. I was very alarmed, but I stayed in the bathroom stall until I didn’t hear any more noise.
In a small dorm it is easy to misplace your items. I recommend keeping a small bag with a scarf or instant hijab “ala” al amirah or khimar, sleeves, tasbih if you use one. You can always use the blanket of the hostel bed to wrap around your body for prayer. Sleeves can keep your arms from exposure whenever you lift your hands up.
Travel is an AMAZING experience and there’s no reason why your religious practices should keep you from going for it!