If you’re a bit cash-strapped, but you’re looking for something a bit more upscale than a hostel or dormitory — there might be a solution:
Capsule hotels, otherwise known as pod hotels, offer affordable accommodation while also providing guests with some privacy. Considering that you often barely spend enough time in a hotel room to warrant the cost, it’s nice to have the option of obtaining a clean and private sleeping space at a much cheaper rate.
What Is a Capsule Hotel?
As Japan is a country that has always had to consider the clever use of space, it’s not surprising that the concept of the capsule hotel originated there. Although the idea only gained traction in the global arena over the last two decades, the first of its kind, namely the Capsule Inn Osaka, opened its doors back in 1979. What was originally meant to provide cheap accommodation for Japanese white-collar workers who frequent izakayas (a kind of Japanese bar) till late at night, has since become a viable and popular accommodation option for travelers all around the world.
Today, there are capsule hotels in just about every major tourist destination you can think of, including Singapore, Bali, Amsterdam, Sydney, New York City, London, Saint Petersburg, Cape Town, and Kuala Lumpur. As the setup of a capsule hotel lends itself to single-night stays, many of these kinds of facilities have been erected at airports where guests can rent a pod per hour.
The various iterations of the capsule hotel present vastly different interpretations of the initial concept –which is to provide a basic sleeping facility –and may range from a mere box with a bed to a tech-savvy and stylish space.
So How Does It Work?
The typical capsule hotel features diminutive rooms, called capsules, that basically only provide a mattress to sleep on. Space could be so limited that a guest can only crawl inside, lie down, and sit up. However, these pods are usually well-equipped and may feature a built-in television, air conditioning, and power sockets.
The pods are normally lined up tightly, one against the other, and stacked two units high, with steps or ladders providing access to the second row. As the rooms only provide a sleeping area, guests share bathroom facilities and dining halls, with more upscale hotels also offering spas, restaurants, bars, and lounge areas where guests can chill with a book or interact with other guests.
Depending on the hotel, separate sections or floors may be provided for males and females, and guests can store their luggage and valuables in a locker or, if it’s provided, a room safe. If you’re in Japan, you’ll most likely have to swap your shoes and clothes for mandatory slippers and a bathrobe, but this is not the case in other parts of the world.
As you can imagine, this concept has been re-imagined in interesting and innovative ways that offer various levels of luxury, convenience, and space. Some hotels, for instance, sport rooms with bespoke furniture that provide convenient features in these limited spaces, such as desks that fold into the wall. Other hotels even offer capsule rooms with airplane-size bathrooms and windows.
Interesting Takes on the Capsule Hotel
Here are a few interesting examples of capsule hotels/hostels:
Book & Bed
Book & Bed is an accommodation franchise in Tokyo. What makes the place so interesting is the fact that it’s basically a cool library that offers bookworms a bed to fall asleep in. The interior of the Book & Bed in Kyoto, for instance, is hip and attractive, featuring a row of wooden capsules that each contains a cozy mattress with clean linen, a reading light, a few pegs with hangers, and a safe. Each pod also sports a curtain that can be drawn for privacy.
All along the exterior of the row of pods, shelves are lined with a wide selection of books that guests can read during their stay. If you wish, you can also mingle in the communal space around the capsules, which features a comfortable built-in sofa along the perimeter of the room. Facilities include clean toilets and showers and Wi-Fi is free.
Pangea Pod offers super-hip, designer pods at affordable prices, which provide younger folks who like the finer things in life, but may not be able to fund that lifestyle yet, with a nice option. The place falls halfway between a hostel and a hotel, as it offers the social vibe of the former and the privacy and convenience of the latter.
Guests can catch up on their emails and social media accounts in The Living Room, go for a nice meal and a craft beer in the café, or enjoy the lovely view from the rooftop patio while sipping on a cocktail. Located in the center of Whistler in British Columbia, Pangea Pod is walking distance from great bars and restaurants, as well as from the Whistler Blackcomb Gondolas.
Each pod features three walls with natural wood finishes and a curtain that guests can draw or open as they wish. Inside the room is a comfy double mattress, a mirror, soft LED lighting, a luggage storage space, an electronic fan, a lockable cabinet, hangers, and electrical and USB charging ports. The walls even boast attractive artwork that lends the pods a cheery and homey feel.
91 Loop Boutique Hotel
Located in Cape Town’s famous Loop Street, this establishment provides hostel travelers with a boutique experience. The brainchild of 91 Loop was inspired to launch this boutique hostel after his experiences in the capsule hotels of Japan. As he –and the average European and African man — is much taller than the Japanese, he decided to build his capsules minus a few unnecessary gadgets, such as a television, and rather opt for more space. However, the pods still feature a few nice-to-haves, including a bedside locker, international power sockets, and a comfortable, large mattress with crispy-white linen.
The dormitories, which all carry the names of international cities, boast a modern, all-white design, as well as a “drunk light” that enables latecomers to find their pod when the main dorm light has been switched off. To light up your capsule with a soft hue, simply swipe your card on a sensor at the entrance of the dorm and make your way to your private abode.
Guests receive a free breakfast that consists of cereals, toast, cheese, and marmalade. Those who want their eggs, bacon, and coffee, can get it at a nominal price of around $2. The hostel also offers common spaces where guests can interact, for instance, a bar area named The Honey Badger. Fun activities are hosted in the large courtyard, including a Sunday braai (the Afrikaans word for barbecue), Friday-night parties, and beer-pong Thursdays.
These are only a few examples of the clever ways in which the original concept of the Japanese capsule hotel has been adapted. Offering attractive and comfortable sleeping spaces, clean restrooms, convenient communal spaces, and super-affordable rates, the capsule hotel is providing travelers with a very viable accommodation option.