When we went to Lisbon in May I gained a new Twitter follower who calls the city home. She mentioned in a comment to me “it’s great to meet another hijabi travel freak!” and this got me thinking. Sure it’s less likely to see a covered Muslim woman traveling solo, with a partner, or friend. But surely they do. We face some additional hurdles and considerations but what really made me smile was maybe we’re breaking down some misconceptions too.
I mean the typical stereotype is if you’re a covered Muslim woman you’re only traveling if you’re with a spouse and then only where and when he wants to go – you know the submissive female and all that. I pretty much defy every sense of that stereotype. I love traveling and it was me that pushed my husband to go out and see the world. Today he loves it as much as I do but we’re perfectly comfortable traveling alone or together. I’m not going to get into scripture and the right or wrong of this – it’s what works for us.
So, if you’re a hijabi woman wanting to explore the world do it!
My first experience staying in a hostel couldn’t have been better. Seriously. If it weren’t for my subsequent experience in Spanish hostels I would have a very jaded opinion of what a hostel is. Before we arrived two things worried me. I am almost 30 and thought maybe we were just a little too old for this. Then when we were asking for directions were told it was a somewhat sketchy part of town. Thankfully there was no reason for me to worry. Lisbon has some really amazing hostels. With beautiful surroundings, clean rooms, great amenities, for a real budget price you can hardly go wrong. As I mentioned in my post on what to eat in Lisbon, we stayed at The Lost Inn during our time in Lisbon. This is a relatively new hostel and set the bar very high for every hostel going forward.
MarocBaba and I had a private room with two beds. Under the bed there was an electronically keyed lock. We were given towels and the sheets were clean. Want extra pillows? No problem! There were shower/bathrooms for each gender and the showers were individual stalls with locking doors. MarocBaba was a little unsure about this to which all I could think was, “well it’s obvious you never lived in a dorm!” But honestly it was nicer than the dorm I lived in during college. There was also a very nice kitchen to cook whatever you wanted, a large fridge to share, and lots of sitting areas. Breakfast was included everyday with things like bread, cheese, lunch meat, preserves, cake or pastries, cereal, and yogurt. We had the option to join up with a free walking tour each morning and while we didn’t have time to do it, we heard really great things. Everyone who worked at the desk and in the hostel were incredibly friendly and helpful giving us ideas, directions, whatever we needed. We felt so comfortable! Also, we met some really cool people and that by far was the biggest difference between staying in a hotel and choosing a hostel.
I did come away with some tips for what to look for when you book a hostel and if you’re a hijabi staying in a hostel.
General tips on what to look for when you’re booking a hostel;
– Location, location, location: So you’ve found a great deal on a hostel but it’s pretty far from where you want to be and the transportation options aren’t so great. There’s only a few restaurants nearby…but it’s such a good deal. It might not be such a good deal once you factor in extra costs to get there and back and eat. Your best bet is to choose a hostel that’s central to where you want to be. Rely on your feet and public transport as much as possible.
– Amenities: If you’re traveling short term you might be able to carry a towel, blanket, or sheet with you. But if you’re going to be gone for sometime it’s more difficult. Make sure to see what the hostel includes in regards to bedding and linen. It may be available for an extra charge. You’ll also want to know if breakfast is included, if you can use the kitchen, or if there are special complimentary meal nights.
– Reviews: We all know review sites can be bogus but there’s a good chance if most people are saying great things (or conversely negative things) it’s more than likely true. Reviews can go a long way in helping you determine if a place meets your needs or not.
Some helpful tips for hijabis;
– Get a private room — Many hostels offer private single, double, triple, or quadruple rooms if you’re traveling with a group. If you’re alone and they don’t, you can’t be sure to stay in a single sex room. There are still some coed rooms in dorms – you’ll want to avoid that.
– Bring a hooded robe — So you go take a shower and are headed back to your room. Really do you want to get dressed in the steamy, sticky bathroom? You don’t. Throw on a pair of leggings and wrap your robe up pulling the hood over your head for an instant hijab. Ta da! Knock at your door and you’re in your pj’s? Throw the robe on and hood up. You can see how helpful it becomes!
– Pull on Hijabs — You know the fabric/lycra hijabs that you just have to pull over your head? These are great for traveling because they’re light, they don’t wrinkle, and work well in all kinds of weather. Plus you don’t have any ends to deal with or pins. Not to mention it makes going through airport security much easier. I’m a fan.
– Flip flops — Even if it’s winter you’ll want a pair of flip flops for the shower and for walking around in the hostel. Even when the shower is super clean you just never know and should totally keep your feet safe!
– Toiletries — Unlike a hotel most hostels have few toiletries (I was super excited to find a blowdryer to use in the bathroom at The Lost Inn). Bring your own shampoo/conditioner/face wash/soap – whatever your cleaning routine includes. One thing we’ve done is stopped at the local pharmacy or all purpose store and picked up these things at our destination. Buy a smaller size and use it, before you leave donate it at the front desk and it can either be tossed or given to the next guess who forgets something. We travel with only carry-on bags regularly and this makes dealing with the liquid rules easier.
– Use the kitchen if available – It can be hard in some places to find food that you can eat. While some hostels serve breakfast you might find it’s cold cut hams and bread. Stop by a market and pick up a few things you know are halal to have just in case.
– Shower at off peak times if you’re worried about too many people being around and bring your change of clothes into the shower stall.
Stayed in a hostel? Traveled as a hijabi?
What tips would you add?