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During our previous trips to SE Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe, we always stayed in a private double room. There were a few reasons for this, the most obvious one being that backpacking couples need their privacy (for cuddling, arguing, and other things…) The other reasons being that we like to have our valuables locked away safely in our own room and we don’t want to be disturbed by people snoring, turning lights on in the middle of the night and getting up early!

private room in south africa
A nice private room in South Africa – no one around to disturb us except for monkeys in the jungle

We’ve always stayed in hostels, but opt for the private room instead of a dorm bed.

We tried out a dorm room two times on our previous travels, once in Borneo, Malaysia and once in Mozambique, (only because everything else was fully booked) and we hated every moment of it! We had visions of dirty, smelly dorm rooms with rock hard beds…and we were right. There were about 20 people in the room, bags and clothes littered the ground and hung over each bunk-bed. Guys were walking around in their teeny-tiny underwear, it smelled like a locker room and people were checking in at 3:00am and being really loud.

sleeping in dorm rooms
No one likes a smelly, dirty dorm room

From that moment on, we vowed never to go in a dorm room again.

But…

This trip has made us embrace the dorm room with open arms!

In Mongolia, we did a trip to the Gobi Desert and 6 of us stayed in one ger tent and it turned out to be great. In Ulan Bator, there aren’t really any private rooms. Basically, the rooms in people’s apartments have been turned into dorm rooms for backpackers. The beds are really comfy and clean, there are only 8 beds in a room (maximum), it doesn’t smell and the shared bathrooms are spotless!

shared bathroom dorm
The shared bathrooms are really clean in this part of the world

The same goes for our time spent in Russia. We were in a dorm room that only had 4 beds, it was silent, very clean and the other backpackers were really respectful. The second dorm we were in had 7 beds, all of which were full, and the people were really quiet, used their headlamp at night to search through their bags and seemed to tippy-toe around the room. There was even a privacy curtain that could be pulled across the bottom bed! So awesome.

sleeping in dorm rooms
A nice quiet, comfortable, 4 bed dorm room in Russia

Besides the fact that the rooms are really clean and it’s a nice atmosphere to be in, the cost is much, much cheaper for a dorm than for a private room in this area of the world. In Ulan Bator, the cost of 2 dorm beds was $12, while a double room was $30. That $18 we saved per night really added up and helped out our budget for Mongolia. While travelling in SE Asia, the cost of a private room wasn’t much more than the cost of 2 beds in a dorm room.

Why are the dorms cleaner, quieter and better in this part of the world?

We think it’s because of the types of travellers.

SE Asia, South America, Central America, Australia and Europe are hotspots for gap year students and younger travellers…and are known for being places to party! Which is fine, but being in a dorm isn’t exactly all that enjoyable for a couple. From what we’ve seen (and heard) the beds aren’t great, the rooms are kind of grubby and things can quite easily get stolen.

partying
We wouldn’t trust any of these crazy, partying hooligans around our valuables…

The travellers we’ve met so far have been a more mature crowd. Everyone seems to be here for trekking, hiking, culture and history and the age demographic is about 25-50. Mongolia and Central Asia don’t exactly scream “beach party”.

The owners are also always around. They either sleep in a dorm bed as well, live in the apartment right next door, or are hanging out in the kitchen during the day.

shared kitchen in dorm
One of the great things about these hostels is the shared kitchen

Of course we don’t always stay in dorm rooms, but since there aren’t many options for private rooms, we’ve decided to be more open-minded and have had positive experiences so far!

What do you think? Have you stayed in a dorm room? What was your experience like? Tell us below.

SURVIVAL GUIDE TO BACKPACKING AS A COUPLE

COUPLE’S TRAVEL: CAN BACKPACKING BRING YOU TOO CLOSE?

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26 thoughts on “Backpacking As A Couple: Embracing The Dorm Room

  1. Thanks for a great article! When we travel we also like the privacy of private rooms and bathrooms. My husband more so than me. 🙂 I’ve had to reason with him though and tell him that there *may* be times that we have to sleep in dorms…. lol.

  2. I’ve stayed in a fair amount of dorms, but I agree with you mostly. I haven’t been to Asia yet, so I can’t speak for that region, but in Europe there are a lot of noisy “party chalets” where I wouldn’t want to leave my stuff.

    I appreciated a lot of the hostels and dorms in New Zealand though, but that might be because of expectations. I thought they were going to be noisy and messy because I imagined a lot of teenagers partying their way through the country, but we got comfortable and silent rooms most of the time 🙂

    Anyway, hostel dorms are good for meeting people, not necessarily a good night’s sleep, hehe 😉

  3. Super article as always. My wife and i always stay in private rooms and yesterday we talked about when we go to Australia one day what we should do because the dorm are less expensive but it is a big party at all the hostels. Then we talked about renting a mobilhome but it is not easy to drive in the cities. What did you do when travelling down under? The hostels you mentioned looks really nice and do not scream ” beach party ” :)it looks like good places for the more adult travellers.

  4. I was hoping I’d get to try some dorm rooms when I was in Thailand. But as you mentioned, the price of a private room isn’t too much different from the price of two dorm beds. Judging from this post, it seems we dodged a bullet!

  5. Interesting read! Can’t believe you gave it all up to travel that’s amazing! Have a read of my blog if you get a chance…just home from 14 months of travel in New Zealand! Can’t wait to get away again 🙂

    Yvonne

  6. Hello N&D~~ I’m here in time square and nobody else, I get bored and open your blog. HAHAHA~
    OK~~so it’s called a dorm room? Since I graduated from my college, I never lived in that then.
    It do seems very nice. Happy to see your trip is moving on~

  7. Meeting other travellers is definitely a perk….but we figure it’s a perk of staying in a hostel in general, rather than in dorms! I love the communal areas that everyone hangs out in and swaps travel stories and tips.

    Glad to know the hostels in NZ weren’t too crazy!

    Cheers 🙂

  8. You’re right, we lucked out and found that these dorms/hostels were for a more mature crowd. We haven’t been to OZ yet, but have also heard that it can be quite a party in the hostels! I would suggest checking out TripAdvisor and other reviews of hostels on HostelWorld or HostelBookers and see what others have said about the place.

    Renting/buying a campervan in OZ and in NZ is very popular and a great way to get around, and you always have your bed with you!!

    You could also consider camping.

    Hope this helps, cheers

  9. haha, yep, you’ve got that right!

    We prefer huts or guesthouses in Thailand for sure…and like you said, it’s basically the same price for a double room – why would we even consider staying in a dorm?

    Cheers 🙂

  10. haha, hi Lina!

    Dorms aren’t exactly luxurious and yes, they are what you would have stayed in when you were in college! They’re ok though for a couple of Goats on the Road though 😉

    Thanks for the comment!

  11. I think the line for comfortable dorm hostel rooms is somewhere about six beds. Eight might be okay, but every time I’ve stayed in something larger there was at least one person watching movies on their ipad or talking to their friend or something else that kept me up.

  12. For someone who has never “dormed” unless you count quite a few scout camps under canvas some forty years ago, I found this topic very interesting. Very late in life I am getting a severe travel itch (more of a rash actually) and I am seriously thinking about using hostels in India next year. Travelling on my own will add another dimension but as always, I glean some great info from your posts. Thanks and keep them coming.
    Dusty

  13. Thanks for the comment Dusty.
    When we were in India, we mostly stayed in guesthouses, bungalows or hotels. We didn’t see many hostels actually. They had a lot of single beds available though, but I can’t comment on dorms.

    Enjoy your travels!

  14. Hey! I’m the Taiwan girl you’ve met in Olkhon Island! When I arrived the hostel in Omsk, and saw the message book there, I found that you just left that hostel 2 days ago!!! It was really a coincidence! Haha! The host, Natasha and I were surprised 🙂

    Your travel is so nice, and make me want to plan another travel.
    Expecting for your new articles!

  15. Hi Pei-Chun!

    That’s so funny that we stayed at the same hostel in Omsk. Wasn’t it a really nice place to stay? We’re glad you found our site and are happy to have a new follower 🙂

    Cheers!

  16. You’re right, it very much depends on what part of the world you’re in. Asia you don’t need to use them (or they don’t exist), Australia was awful for dorm rooms as was New Zealand, Europe can be hit and miss. Often selecting a quieter hostel will do the trick.

    One thing we have seen (and used) a few times is double beds in dorm rooms, which is just bizarre!

    Off to South America next, and as a couple I suspect we’ll be saving for the privates again…

  17. Ha! This is classic guys. We relate to SO much of it. Especially dorming it on S.E.A! Thanks for the laughs but also the advice on where it is alright to “embrace the dorm.” I’ll no doubt be returning to this page for future help.

    Cheers!

  18. haha, thanks Vaughan!

    Sometimes you just have to embrace the dorm room, especially outside of the cheaper countries! We found the dorms in Central Asia, Russia and Mongolia to be really good actually and the people staying in them were quite mature and respectful.

    Thank you for commenting and happy travels!

  19. I completely agree that there are difficulties staying in a dorm for travelling couples. I enjoy the hostel environment but a couple needs that privacy to talk etc specially when you’re doing a lot of activities along the road. It’s a bit awkward to do couple-y stuff when people are around. I think they prefer that couples stay on private rooms too. Often the comfort of a quiet room is what you need with your partner.
    My boyfriend and I usually opt for private rooms when we travelled in parts of Asia, Europe and in Morocco but sometimes hostels were the best option financially. We stayed in dorm rooms in London (12pax) and Honolulu (6pax) (we’re currently in Hawaii). It was alright but not for a long time, I guess. To me, it feels weird when me and my boyfriend have to sleep across different double beds and have to wake up to room with a bunch of other people. Socializing is great in hostels but it’s not necessary to be in the dorms to get this advantage. So in terms of couples sleeping dorms, compromise if needed but get a private is you can.

  20. HI Gia,

    I totally agree! We too love the hostel atmosphere, but always opt for a private room – couples definitely need their privacy and like you said, I think other dorm-dwellers prefer it if we get our own room too.

    How much is a hostel in Hawaii?

  21. We are a couple travelling and while we prefer private rooms, it is sometimes nice to head into a dorm for the chance to meet other travelers. We have found as a couple fewer people approach you but in a dorm people are less likely to assume you are anything more than friends so will be more welcoming.
    At the moment we are still in the party region of South East Asia and can understand why older travelers may not like the experience. We always try to avoid party hostels because of a bad experience in Cambodia. (Guys, it isn’t cool to have sex in a dorm at 1am!) But the right hostel can enhance your experience of a place and we never rule them out as an option!

  22. Yes! Hostels are great We have just always preferred private rooms in the hostels and then hangout with people in the common area – sex in the dorm is pretty standard I think!

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