As you travel, you'll come across hostels with both mixed dorms and same-sex dorms, with the former being much more common. Are there any real advantages or disadvantages to which room you opt for? We dispel the myths and take a look at the pros and cons.
Mixed Dorms: The Advantages and Disadvantages
The main advantage to mixed rooms is getting to meet a wider variety of travelers from around the world, which, of course, is what travel is all about!
There are the usual stereotypes that male travelers are noisier, dirtier, and snore all night, but these are not necessarily untrue -- some of the loudest snorers I've come across in dorms have been women! I will say that the bathrooms are usually grosser if you're sharing them with guys, though, so if you don't want to deal with that, you may want to opt for a same-sex room.
You'll most likely find the men you share your dorm room with to be respectful, quiet, and friendly. Even if most of your friends are of the same sex, travel is about getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things -- what better way to do so than by creating a new circle of friends? If the idea of a mixed dorm freaks you out, try it anyway! It's a good way to try something new without putting yourself in any danger. You'll most likely find it's nowhere near as bad as you imagined.
One advantage to sleeping in mixed dorms is that they're usually cheaper than same-sex rooms. Hostel owners know that travelers are happy to pay a couple of dollars more to stay in a same-sex room, so if you're on a budget, opt for a mixed-sex dorm and you'll be able to save some money.
There are a few disadvantages to mixed dorms: With guys and girls mixing and hanging out, hostel hookups can be more likely in those mixed sex dorms. Pack some earplugs in case you're unfortunate enough to have to witness this, and you'll hopefully sleep through the night without being disturbed.
If you're going to be sharing a bathroom with those in your dorm, you may prefer to be sharing your shower and toilet with people of the same sex, but sometimes showers are shared between the entire hostel, so there's no guarantee of this.
Same-Sex Dorms: The Advantages and Disadvantages
You'll mostly come across women-only dorms, but you do also see a few men-only dorm rooms, too. These exist for travelers who feel more comfortable sleeping in a room of same-sex travelers. Let's face it: it can feel unsettling to be the only girl sleeping in a room with nine other guys, none of whom you know or trust. And if you're a guy who prefers to hang out with other male travelers, you may prefer to opt for a same-sex dorm, too.
In my experience, the female-only dorms are quieter than mixed rooms. In general, the girls who opt for female-only rooms tend to be less about the partying, so you'll be unlikely to be woken up at 3 a.m. by drunk people shouting and switching on all the lights. If I'm craving a better night's sleep, I'll almost always opt for a female-only dorm if that's an option. Additionally, I find it easier to make friends with women, so opting for a women-only dorm means I'll have more in common with my bunkmates, and won't have a problem finding someone to head out for dinner with.
I've also found that women travelers can often be a bit more respectful of sleep times in dorms, and as a woman, it's less intimidating to have to ask a group of women to keep the noise down than a group of guys. If you value your sleep, therefore, you may prefer to sleep with just women in your room.
If you're a solo female traveler and concerned about the safety of staying in mixed dorms, you'll receive better peace of mind from sharing your room with just women. Remember that hostels are very safe environments and nothing bad is likely to ever happen to you in one, whether you're in a mixed dorm room or not. If you don't want to take the risk, though, look out for a hostel with a girls-only dorm room.
Remember, it's not just your physical safety you have to worry about either. Both men and women can be thieves, so take care to keep your things in lockers while you're out exploring. Even if the travelers in your room seem like they're trustworthy, remember that you don't know them, so don't take any risks. Lock up your things whenever you leave the room, and don't flash any valuables around while you're hanging out in the dorm room, either.
Finally, if you find that you get on better with people of the same sex, a same-sex room will obviously be better for you. Making friends is one of the highlights of most people's travel experiences, so if you'll feel better in a same-sex dorm, go for it! And likewise, if you get on better with the opposite sex, a mixed dorm is probably the way to go for you.
In general, there aren't too many differences between mixed dorms and same-sex dorms. Stereotypes exist but aren't necessarily true. Be sure to try both while you're on the road and discover which works best for you. You may find you much prefer hanging out with the opposite sex, or that members of the same sex are much more enjoyable to talk to. Try both and experiment! It's what travel's all about.